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Saturday, July 20, 2013

E-Rate: The Sequel?

E-Rate: The Sequel?

While many educators have been enjoying the relative relaxation of summer vacation, there has been a flurry of activity in DC around the federal program known as E-Rate. 

E-Rate has served as a catalyst for school technology growth to power research, communication and online learning, since its inception in 1997.  E-Rate has provided schools with funding for powerful networks, which have become pervasive, and crucial to the functioning of the education process.  School networks are now a crucial utility to schools, much like electricity.  But networks need to change; much like the electrical wiring at schools has needed to be increased from the days where all that was plugged in was a filmstrip projector.  The uses of networks in education are expanding daily and the numbers of devices and users on them is climbing rapidly, with the advent of 1 to 1 and BYOD programs, bolstered by a host of online learning initiatives.

Several groups, such as CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking), have been advocating on schools’ and educators’ behalf and have been pushing the FCC to revisit E-Rate funding, which has been largely static, despite a massive increase in needs.  Just over a month ago, there appeared to be progress, with President Obama’s announcement of the ConnectED initiative.   And just this past week, the FCC voted to overhaul the E-Rate program

A true technology leader, Sheryl Abshire, Chief Technology Officer at Calcasieu Parish Public Schools, testified before the FCC saying, “E-Rate needs to move beyond assessing whether a classroom or library has an Internet connection to determining whether that connection’s speed meets the needs of users who seek to access and use the most up-to-date digital content, courses, resources, services and tools.”   We could not have asked for a better advocate on our behalf and it appears the FCC listened.

So now the rest of us need to help out; The next step for all of us is to provide comments on the new proposals as the FCC provides details on the proposed programs, so be sure to keep an eye on the FCC’s site.