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.
For more information visit the
website or contact Catherine D. Clarke, ASHA's director of education and
regulatory advocacy, at [email protected] or 800-498-2071, ext.