Tags: phone | rates | FCC | wireless | schools

FCC Chair: Raise Phone Rates to Boost Wi-Fi in Schools, Libraries

By    |   Monday, 17 Nov 2014 06:44 PM

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is asking for an additional $1.5 billion from U.S. citizens to boost Internet connectivity for public schools and libraries.

Money for the increase, which would bring the total cost of the E-Rate program to $3.9 billion, would come from a 16-cent rate hike on Americans' monthly land-line and mobile phone bills, says a report on the FCC's website.

Chairman Tom Wheeler will provide a draft of the proposal to the four other members of the commission for their review, the report says.

The purpose of the plan is to ensure "that every student in America, no matter where they live, has access to the unlimited learning opportunities enabled by high-speed broadband.
The proposal is the next major step in the comprehensive modernization of E-rate — America's largest education technology program — the first such effort since the program's creation 18 years ago."

In July, the FCC adopted a plan that would start to "close the Wi-Fi gap" in U.S. schools and libraries, according to Wheeler's proposal. The FCC wants to have every school and library connected to a Wi-Fi network in five years. Short-term, the commission wants to have 20 million students learning via a wireless connection within two years.

The proposal says that nearly two-thirds of public schools, which contain more than 40 million students, do not have high-speed Internet connections that are able to handle modern digital learning techniques.

The 16-cent rate hike equals an extra $1.90 that Americans would spend every year — "less than a medium-size soda at a fast-food restaurant or a cup of coffee," the proposal reads.

The lack of Wi-Fi connections and/or strong Internet connections in U.S. schools and libraries is more prevalent in rural areas, according to the proposal. Forty-one percent of rural schools either do not have a fiber-optic Internet connection or do not meet modern connectivity goals. The figure for suburban and urban schools is 31 percent.

Forty percent of school districts say cost is an issue when it comes to upgrading their fiberoptic networks.

Further, half of all libraries in the country have Internet connections with slow speeds.

"The issue today is less one of access than one of speed," said Sen. Edward Markey, D- Mass., in a Wall Street Journal story. Markey worked on the E-Rate program when it was adopted in 1997.

The Journal reports that the FCC will vote on the proposal during a meeting on Dec. 11. The five-member commission is composed of three Democrats, including Wheeler, and two Republicans.

Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican, said the plan is essentially a tax increase.

"The commission had the opportunity to enact bipartisan, student-centered E-Rate reforms," Pai told the Journal. "Instead, it adopted a plan with numbers that didn't come close to adding up and promised outside groups a massive post-election tax increase."

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The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission is asking for an additional $1.5 billion from American citizens to boost Internet connectivity for public schools and libraries.
phone, rates, FCC, wireless, schools
470
2014-44-17
Monday, 17 Nov 2014 06:44 PM
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