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E-Rate: Schools Getting Connected

News > E-Rate: Schools Getting Connected

E-Rate: Schools Getting Connected

 

In 1996, only about 20 million Americans had Internet access, and wired schools were rare. But many saw the potential for the new tool, and when Congress passed the Telecommunications Act that year, it included a mandate to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to promote universal access for schools and libraries across the country. If you've ever scrutinized your phone or ISP bill and wondered what the small "Universal Connectivity Fee" is for, it funds E-Rate, the FCC's access program.

Today, more than 95 percent of schools are connected. But of course the meaning of "access" has changed a lot since the '90s, when dial-up was the norm. More than 60 percent of schools - serving about 40 million students - lack broadband access. Many of these schools are relying on outdated infrastructure that was not designed to accommodate hundreds of laptops and tablets. In an FCC survey, nearly half of all schools reported connectivity speeds lower than the average home.

"The challenge today is no longer connection, it's capacity," writes FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in Huffington Post. "Too many of our schools and libraries that rely on E-Rate - often in low-income and rural communities - access the Internet at speeds as low as 3 megabits. That means too many schools are unable to offer high-definition streaming video, take advantage of the most innovative digital teaching tools, or provide modern science, technology, engineering, and math instruction."

Earlier this year, the FCC refocused E-Rate to address this gap. Starting with the 2015 funding cycle, the FCC will only consider applications that help achieve that the new goal of broadband access in every school in five years.

Concord Technology Group works with school districts around Ohio and nearby states on E-Rate eligibility. CTG assesses needs, makes recommendations and installs hardware. We stand ready to help other schools who are applying - or reapplying, in light of the new priorities. Our partner Xirrus was the first company to achieve full compliance with federal guidelines for its wireless devices. Another partner, Meru Networks offers an informative E-Rate Survival Guide.

Applications were due in late February.

"To be prepared for college and the 21st Century workforce," writes FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, "students today need to have access to state-of-the-art, interactive, educational content; and tools for student collaboration, student-teacher communication, and lesson planning. None of this will be possible if our students aren't connected to networks capable of delivering that content and offering those tools."

If you'd like help navigating the E-Rate path, contact us.