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

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.

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