The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has initiated a thorough review of the E-rate program and set forth three proposed goals to modernize the program: (1) increase broadband capacity, (2) achieve cost-effective purchasing, and (3) streamline program administration. The proposal also seeks comment on options to advance these goals. Improvements to the E-rate program could affect the ability of ASHA members to provide telepractice services and to host electronic individualized education programs (IEPs).
The E-rate program, established in 1997, represents the federal government's largest education technology program. When Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, only 14% of classrooms had Internet access; today that figure is close to 100%. To date, the E-rate program has successfully connected virtually all U.S. schools and libraries (97% of U.S. classrooms) to the Internet, according to the FCC. Over the past 15 years, support provided by the E-rate program has helped revolutionize schools' and libraries' access to modern communications networks, but the needs of schools and libraries are changing. In schools, high-speed broadband access facilitates an increasingly interactive and individualized learning environment and expands school boundaries through distance learning applications. In libraries, high-speed broadband access gives patrons the ability to apply for jobs; interact with federal, state, local, and tribal government agencies; engage in lifelong learning; and stay in touch with friends and family.
For more information, visit FCC's website or contact Catherine D. Clarke, ASHA's director of education and regulatory advocacy, at [email protected] or 800-498-2071, ext. 5611.