Our apologies if you have already heard about this, but this news is important enough to bear repeating. This Friday (July 11), the Federal Communications Commission will meet and probably come to a decision about making some sweeping changes to the E-rate program. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler would like to shift E-rate discounts away from supporting outdated technologies – such as pagers and (eventually) plain old telephone service – to more current technology needs, particularly internal Wi-Fi. Does he have support from the Commissioners to get approval for his proposals? We’ll find out on Friday.
- Modernizing E-rate: Providing 21st century Wi-Fi networks for schools and libraries across America (Federal Communications Commission) “Modernizing our rules to facilitate investment in Wi-Fi would result in a 75 percent increase in Wi-Fi funding for rural areas, which have been disproportionately shut out by the current system. Under existing rules rural schools on average receive 25 percent less Wi-Fi funding for every student, and 50 percent less funding for every school, compared to their non-rural peers, because the current rules often put them at the back of the line.”
- Washington’s Wi-Fi Friday: FCC, Senate push for more Wi-Fi in schools, more unlicensed airwaves (GigaOM | Kevin Fitchard) “Wheeler is calling for new rules to the government’s E-Rate program, which was established 18 years ago to bring internet connectivity to schools and libraries. The program largely accomplished its mission, delivering broadband access to 94 percent of U.S. classrooms and 98 percent of public libraries, according to the FCC. But when the rules were originally written, they didn’t anticipate the wireless connections most devices would need to make that final hop to the internet.”
- ALA encouraged by FCC Chairman’s commitment to a multi-stage E-rate reform (District Dispatch | Marijke Visser) “Mobile internet use in libraries is exploding, and this first step by the Chairman to address this need is important for the vast number of schools and libraries that have not received E-rate support for internal (e.g., Wi-Fi) connections for many years. But this is not enough to meet our national needs. The lack of access to affordable, high-capacity broadband to the building remains a major challenge for so many libraries and schools. Such access must be fully funded for eligible applicants, regardless of any new funding models for Wi-Fi services.”
- E-rate reform: A sustainable path forward for school and library connectivity (The Hill | Danielle Kehl and Sarah Morris) “Simply put, ubiquitous Wi-Fi cannot achieve its promise without a robust wired backbone that is scalable to meet future needs. That’s why a number of stakeholders have recommended that the FCC create a dedicated ‘upgrade fund’ to help schools and libraries cover high upfront costs associated with capital investments to bring fiber to the premises.”
As many of you know, OPLIN and the State Library have sponsored E-rate workshops for public libraries, one in the late fall and one in the winter, for a number of years now. This year, because of the anticipated changes, we are planning to do many more workshops in locations around the state and are also looking into improving online delivery of the workshops. Watch for details early this fall.