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SETDA Applauds FCC Chairman Wheeler’s Commitment to Addressing School Broadband Needs

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has announced his intent today to take another bold step forward in modernizing the E-rate program. The first step was taken by the FCC in July 2014 after a year of deliberations. In endorsing the SETDA school broadband recommendations, the FCC voted in July 2014 to establish clear goals for the E-rate, while at the same time undertaking a comprehensive restructuring and updating of the program. The second step, taken under Chairman Wheeler’s direction, was the implementation of a suite of FCC administrative actions to improve the efficiency, transparency, and effectiveness of program operations. According to the New York Times, Chairman Wheeler’s current proposal is focused on making $1.5 billion annually in new investments (1) to ensure that affordable, high-capacity broadband is available to all schools – including rural schools – primarily via strategies to encourage infrastructure enhancements and (2) to address the pent up demand for robust internal connections (e.g., WiFi) within schools.

SETDA applauds the Chairman’s proposal, which is expected to be taken up at the December 11 FCC Commission meeting. It addresses the two most significant remaining barriers facing the success of the program, including right-sizing the program to reflect the dramatic uptake of – and increasing reliance on – technology by schools over the last two decades.

As we at SETDA have reiterated time and again since E-rate modernization deliberations first began, it is a simple fact that access to high-speed broadband is now as vital a component of K-12 school infrastructure as electricity, air conditioning and heating. The same tools and resources that have transformed our personal, civic, and professional lives must be a part of learning experiences intended to prepare today’s students for college and careers. College students rely on technology for academic success and to improve personal productivity. In the workplace, everyone from mechanics to accounts to physicians depends on technology to conduct their work, grow their business, and collaborate with their colleagues – both locally and globally. With easy access to reliable, robust, and cost-effective broadband, we can ensure that each student’s school experience mirrors evolving societal expectations for public education.

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