January 9, 2015

Federal School Technology Funding Gets a Boost

According to The Hechinger Report and U.S. News & World Report, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently approved an increase on telephone service fees to boost funding for the E-Rate program.  As explained in a previous OLR Report, 2013-R-0254, E-Rate provides subsidies to broadband Internet providers that offer discounted service to schools and libraries.  This tax increase is expected to generate an extra $1.5 billion each year for the program, which has not seen an increase in 16 years.
Photo by Laurie Sullivan/CC BY 2.0

The tax increase will add $1.90 in annual fees per phone.  The extra funding is meant to expand the use of computers and websites in classrooms with limited Internet bandwidth and unreliable connections.  This funding boost supports the executive branch initiative, known as ConnectEd, to provide almost every school with a high-speed Internet connection.

Two out of five commissioners voted against the fee increase, expressing concerns that the revenues raised may not benefit the neediest students or ensure equitable online access.  The FCC has estimated that nearly 70 percent of schools lack high-speed Internet connectivity, mostly in poor urban and rural school districts.

In addition to the fee increase, the FCC’s order will also help schools and libraries build their own high-speed broadband facilities where there is no local alternative.