Internet Service Upgrade Coming to Poor and Rural Schools

The New York Times | By Edward Wyatt | September 20, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to approve an overhaul of the $2.25 billion E-Rate program, which subsidizes Internet service for schools and public libraries, to give schools more options for faster Internet service, allow for community Internet service and to begin pilot programs for digital textbooks.

The proposed E-Rate order would allow schools and libraries to use federal funds to lease unused local communication lines — known as dark fiber — to connect to the Internet, a potentially faster and lower-cost connection than currently offered through many local telecommunications companies.

Some schools still do not have broadband connections, the F.C.C. noted in its National Broadband Plan, released this year. The company that administers E-Rate received at least 200 requests in the 2009 fiscal year for money to pay for dial-up Internet connections. The program mostly serves schools in poor and rural communities. At its monthly meeting on Thursday, the F.C.C. also will consider allowing schools to open the use of Internet resources paid for with E-Rate funds to the local community after school hours and when school is not in session, which is currently not allowed under E-Rate regulations.

“For the good of our economy, we need all of our kids to be digitally literate,” Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, said in an interview. Job postings are increasingly available online only, he said, while a growing percentage of jobs require basic digital skills as a prerequisite.

The commission also is expected to approve a pilot program that supports off-campus wireless Internet connections for use with mobile learning devices, like digital textbooks. That would allow schools to update their textbooks more frequently and save students from having to carry back-breaking loads of textbooks home each night.

The E-Rate program, which is financed by a fee collected from all telephone users, came under fire from Congress in 2004 for wasteful spending. Changes in accounting regulations and program rules led to a temporary suspension of new grants that year.
 


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/technology/21fcc.html?ref=technology

Issues: 

The New York Times | By Edward Wyatt | September 20, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to approve an overhaul of the $2.25 billion E-Rate program, which subsidizes Internet service for schools and public libraries, to give schools more options for faster Internet service, allow for community Internet service and to begin pilot programs for digital textbooks.

The proposed E-Rate order would allow schools and libraries to use federal funds to lease unused local communication lines — known as dark fiber — to connect to the Internet, a potentially faster and lower-cost connection than currently offered through many local telecommunications companies.

Some schools still do not have broadband connections, the F.C.C. noted in its National Broadband Plan, released this year. The company that administers E-Rate received at least 200 requests in the 2009 fiscal year for money to pay for dial-up Internet connections. The program mostly serves schools in poor and rural communities. At its monthly meeting on Thursday, the F.C.C. also will consider allowing schools to open the use of Internet resources paid for with E-Rate funds to the local community after school hours and when school is not in session, which is currently not allowed under E-Rate regulations.

“For the good of our economy, we need all of our kids to be digitally literate,” Julius Genachowski, the F.C.C. chairman, said in an interview. Job postings are increasingly available online only, he said, while a growing percentage of jobs require basic digital skills as a prerequisite.

The commission also is expected to approve a pilot program that supports off-campus wireless Internet connections for use with mobile learning devices, like digital textbooks. That would allow schools to update their textbooks more frequently and save students from having to carry back-breaking loads of textbooks home each night.

The E-Rate program, which is financed by a fee collected from all telephone users, came under fire from Congress in 2004 for wasteful spending. Changes in accounting regulations and program rules led to a temporary suspension of new grants that year.
 


http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/21/technology/21fcc.html?ref=technology