Ensuring universal access to broadband and advanced telecommunications services in schools
The Schools and Libraries portion of the Universal Service Fund, more widely known as E-rate, was authorized as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. The Act directed the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to establish rules to enhance access to advanced telecommunications and information services, including high capacity broadband, for elementary and secondary school classrooms with funding to be provided by contributions from telecommunications providers.
Select FCC Initiatives and Resources
- The Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) administers the Schools and Libraries (E-rate) Program.
- In response to a mandate from Congress in early 2009, the FCC developed a national broadband plan, which includes recommendations for how broadband can enable improvements in public education.
- The FCC began updating E-rate in 2010, and in July 2013 initiated a full review to modernize the program.
- In July 2013, the FCC released a fact sheet on E-rate modernization.
The Schools and Libraries program, also known as the E-rate program, makes telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries in America. The E-rate program is currently capped at $2.25 billion, indexed to inflation since 2010. Requests for all telecommunications, telecommunications services and Internet access services are funded as “priority one” services: they receive first priority for support. Remaining funds are allocated to requests for support for internal connections and basic maintenance of internal connections – called “priority two” services. Priority two requests are funded beginning with the highest poverty schools and libraries and continuing until funding runs out.
In July 2013, at the urging of SETDA and others, the FCC launched a public rulemaking to solicit ideas on how best to modernize the E-rate program. The process is expected to result in a comprehensive reform, re-alignment, and expansion of the E-rate to better support K-12 education’s increasing reliance on access to broadband-enabled tools and services.