Access to the Underserved: Keeping Up with the Times

  • As currently structured, E-Rate in past years has only been able to support Wi-Fi in 5% of schools and 1% of libraries. In 2013, no money was available for Wi-Fi. I am circulating an E-Rate Modernization Order for consideration at our July meeting that will close this Wi-Fi gap and provide more support for high-capacity wireless broadband for every school and library in America. By acting now, we can deliver digital learning benefits to 10 million students in the next funding year, compared to 4 million students under the status quo.
  • While we need to upgrade the connectivity of our schools and libraries, too many parts of rural America lack broadband connectivity altogether. This is in stark contrast to urban and suburban America, where many consumers have access to broadband at speeds in the hundreds of megabits per second. The simple fact of the matter is that the free market has failed to provide basic broadband connectivity to more than 15 million Americans. While we have already take steps to close the gap, there’s more work to be done. The proposed Order will fund a limited number of trials of alternative approaches to solving this problem using the Connect America Fund (CAF).
  • A third area where the Commission is poised to act to enhance access for the underserved is with closed captioning. Americans living with intellectual and physical disabilities stand to benefit the most from broadband-enabled technologies, but disproportionately find themselves on the wrong side of the digital divide. I have proposed to my colleagues that we require captioning for video clips that end up on the Internet. Those who hear with their eyes should not be disadvantaged in their ability to access video information on the Internet.

Access to the Underserved: Keeping Up with the Times Closed captioning, Wi-Fi on tap for FCC meeting (The Hill)