The following statement can be attributed to State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) executive director Douglas Levin on the announcement today that the FCC will be taking up an e-Rate Modernization order at its July 11 meeting:
“In June 2013, President Obama called for connecting 99 percent of America’s students – at speeds of no less than 100Mbps and with a target of 1Gpbs – to next-generation broadband and high-speed wireless within their schools by 2018. In response, the FCC launched an ambitious effort designed to ensure that every school in the U.S. had affordable, scalable access to high-quality broadband service to meet student learning needs in line with the President’s connectivity goal. Over the last year, the FCC has received thousands of comments from the full spectrum of program beneficiaries and participants, and it is now time for the FCC to act.
In prior filings with the FCC (summarized here), SETDA has asserted the importance of – and our support for – many of the reforms that are slated to be taken up at least in part by the FCC in the current order, including:
- Prioritizing support for broadband under the program as its primary goal, including by adopting SETDA broadband capacity targets;
- Ensuring that e-Rate supports a baseline broadband capacity to and throughout all schools in the nation (via Wi-Fi), including rural and remote schools;
- Increasing transparency of program information, including of prices paid by program participants for broadband services;
- Providing incentives for applicants to seek preferred pricing and service through multi-year and bundled consortia/statewide contracts;
- Reducing the complexity of the program and burden for participants to access benefits, while maintaining appropriate safeguards for waste, fraud and abuse; and,
- Providing specific, predictable and sufficient funding to address K-12 broadband infrastructure needs, which will necessitate increased investments in the program.
It is imperative that program reforms in support of these and other related aims we have advocated for are in place as soon as possible and certainly not later than the 2015-16 school year.
SETDA applauds the momentum at the FCC – and we pledge our support to continue to work with the Commission and others to ensure that the nation’s educational broadband needs are addressed swiftly and comprehensively in this and future orders. Working in partnership with the states, the federal government continues to have a critical role to play in the deployment of high-speed broadband to schools, classrooms, and communities sufficient to meeting the evolving needs of teaching and learning in a digital age.”