E-rate/Schools and Libraries Program
The E-rate program supports nearly every school and library in America, annually providing billions of dollars of much-needed support for Internet access, telecommunications, and computer networking. Over 21,000 applicants and 4,100 vendors currently participate in the program. For most, their perception of the program is limited to a handful of funding requests and a few personal interactions with USAC customer service representatives. The purpose of this analysis is to provide stakeholders with a broader picture of the E-rate program.
We already know that the Federal Communication Commission’s current broadband maps are flawed – they overstate broadband availability, they don’t contain pricing information, and they rely too heavily on industry-provided data. The FCC is now seeking additional funding from Congress to improve its mapping efforts.
A Q&A with Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel on the “homework gap,” the term she coined to describe a problem facing communities where kids can’t access the internet because infrastructure is inadequate, their families can’t afford it, or both. Commissioner Rosenworcel is passionate about getting the FCC to update the E-Rate program, a federal education technology service created in 1996 that offers schools and libraries discounted internet access.
The Federal Communications Commission announced that $1,366,378 in E-Rate funding for 291 schools serving 220,584 students in 32 states and Puerto Rico has been committed so far during the second application window for funding year 2020. During the second filing window, schools can purchase additional bandwidth for this academic year to address needs resulting from the increasing shift to 1:1 student-to-device ratios in classrooms, live streaming of classroom instruction to students at home, and expanding use of cloud-based educational tools and platforms—all of which can significantly incr
Chairman Pai's Response to Senators Regarding Helping Students Maintain Connectivity During the COVID-19 Pandemic
On Sept 17, 2020, 36 Democratic and 2 Independent Senators wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai to demand that the FCC take immediate action to help children who lack internet access at home and are unable to participate in online learning. Specifically, they called on Chairman Pai to utilize the E-Rate program to close this "homework gap" without further delay.
As the pandemic pushes Americans into online school and work, lawmakers are calling for ways to address the “digital divide”—the great number of people who don’t have consistent or reliable internet access. Reps Donna Shalala (D-FL) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) spotlighted ways in which they are working to confront and help close the gap during a livestream conversation hosted by The Washington Post Spet 30.
Remote learning continues to be out of reach for millions of students who lack a reliable internet connection at home. But that doesn't have to be a permanent reality, and efforts are already underway to ensure that it isn't. Achieving universal broadband access would cost billions of dollars and will likely take time to build the infrastructure and political will to make it happen.
Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and nearly 40 other senators are pressing the Federal Communications Commission to take action on the learning gap, urging FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to allow broadband connection into students' homes by expanding the E-Rate Program, which helps schools and libraries connect to the internet. "The FCC has the power to help mitigate the impact of the coronavirus on our most vulnerable families," they wrote.
When we talk about the digital divide, we need to peel back the layers. When we do, it is readily apparent that nearly three times the people who live in urban areas remain unconnected to broadband as those in rural areas. Additionally, according to Pew Research data, 34% of Black people in America do not have a home broadband connection, a disproportionately higher percentage than their white counterparts.
I’m leading 45 of my colleagues in the Senate to fight for at least $4 billion to be delivered through the E-Rate program so students receive the Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and internet connected devices they need to learn at home. Excluding this critical aid from a new coronavirus relief package—as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Republican lawmakers recently did—will exacerbate already substantial inequities for decades. Sixteen million of our nation’s most vulnerable children will continue to suffer. They will continue to fall behind.