Federal Communications Commission Votes to Modernize E-Rate

(July 23, 2014)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted to expand access to cutting-edge digital learning technologies by modernizing its E-rate program to widely support robust Wi-Fi networks in schools and libraries, thus providing greater Wi-Fi access to millions of students. In total, the program improvements will target an additional $5 billion for Wi-Fi over the next five years, which is sufficient to expand Wi-Fi networks in all schools and libraries, says the FCC. Improvements to the E-rate program could impact ASHA members' ability to provide telepractice and host electronic IEPs.

Background

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. Mandated by Congress in 1996 and implemented by the FCC in 1997, the E-rate provides discounted telecommunications, Internet access, and internal connections to eligible schools and libraries, funded by the Universal Service Fund. When Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, only 14% of classrooms had Internet; today, it's near 100%. To date, the E-rate program has successfully connected virtually all U.S. schools and libraries to the Internet, according to the FCC. 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 means an increasingly interactive and individualized learning environment and expands school boundaries through distance learning applications. In libraries, high-speed broadband access provides patrons the ability to apply for jobs; interact with federal, state, local, and Tribal government agencies; engage in life-long learning; and stay in touch with friends and family.

ASHA Resource

For more information visit the FCC's website or contact Catherine D. Clarke, ASHA's director of education and regulatory advocacy, at cclarke@asha.org or 800-498-2071, ext. 5611.


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