Last week we introduced you to EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit group demanding that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) immediately upgrade broadband services in all schools across the U.S. It seems the group’s efforts have paid off, at least for now, as the FCC is reallocating funds to help bring more schools and libraries up to technological speed.
Doubling the Budget for Broadband Grants
On Wednesday FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will announce that it’s doubling the budget of the broadband grants portion of the E-Rate program from $1 billion to $2 billion over two years, according to the Washington Post. This could help bring faster internet and Wi-Fi access to schools and libraries, where access to new educational materials available online would be a big advantage. “In the Internet age, every student in America should have access to state-of-the-art educational tools, which are increasingly interactive, individualized and bandwidth-intensive,” Wheeler is quoted in the Post.
Since 1996 the E-Rate program has worked to bring basic internet service to nearly every school in the U.S, but over the past several years the program has taken the heat for mismanaging funds, with an average of $500 million to $1 billion unspent every year. The FCC will review E-Rate for inefficiencies and plans to bring speeds of 100 megabits a second to schools.
The new broadband funds will not come from an increase in rates charged to wireless and phone customers but rather from unused E-Rate funds from past years and from shifting funds away from outdated telephone services like dial-up internet.
The Future of Technology in the Classroom
The newly increased funding for broadband in schools will hopefully be enough to spark technological advancement in schools. But will $2 billion a year over two years be enough to bring every school the capacity to serve high speed, wireless internet to its students? Probably not. It will take continued work on the part of nonprofits like EducationSuperHighway, tech leaders through initiatives like Internet.org and others to give all students longterm access to all the advantages the internet has on offer.
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