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.


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 [email protected] or 800-498-2071, ext. 5611.

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