FCC Bringing High-Speed Internet to Schools across the Country

by Matt Klassen on November 18, 2014

As confirmation that the Federal Communications Commission does more than just anger broadband carriers with its controversial Net Neutrality restrictions, the often pointless bureaucratic entity is undertaking another worthy cause: connecting schools and libraries to better, faster Internet access.

While all schools and libraries in the U.S. have basic Internet access, today’s online reality demands faster access, meaning most modern educational programs won’t run on those basic Internet connections. “Basic connectivity is now inadequate connectivity,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said.

The importance of fiber connectivity for every school and Wi-Fi for every classroom will be less disparity between urban and rural centers, allowing kids from all economic echelons access to fast, reliable Internet. “The failure to do so will mean children in some communities will continue to be bypassed by opportunities in the 21st century,” Wheeler said. “We can do better than that for our children.” All I wonder is how long it’ll take before this laudable proposal is hit with some sort of frivolous lawsuit.

As CNET’s Roger Cheng explains, “The FCC has set a goal of bringing Internet speeds of 100 megabits per second to schools with 1,000 students, with a longer-term goal of upping that speed to 1 gigabit per second. But to meet those goals, schools need access to faster fiber-optic lines that aren’t necessarily available in rural areas — or are prohibitively expensive.”

On Monday the FCC officially laid out its plan to deliver the necessary high-speed Internet access to every school and library across the country. The plan centres on an increase of the so-called e-rate on phone bills—a longstanding program used to fund Internet access to schools and libraries—by 16 cents a month, or just under $2 a year. The current fee is 99 cents a month. This modest increase will help the FCC boost its annual spending on funding Internet connection in schools libraries from $1.5 billion to $3.9 billion, giving these institutions and broadband providers the funds necessary to install high-speed Internet where it may not have existed before.

While I’m sure there will be some who will cry foul regarding this fee increase, Wheeler noted that the e-rate has remained frozen for 13 years, without any adjustment for inflation. As he explains, this proposal cannot be waylaid any longer, American kids need access to high-speed Internet to benefit from advanced learning tools, and that is something that benefits us all.

According to plan proponent Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), there isn’t expected to be much backlash against these higher fees, given that most critics clearly see the benefits of the e-rate program. “Americans understand this is critical,” Markey said.

Further, with the almost ubiquitous presence of high-speed Internet in every other facet of American life, isn’t it about time the same could be said about the academic institutions educating our youth?

“If coffee drinkers assume there’s Wi-Fi in a Starbucks, students should assume there’s Wi-Fi in the classroom,” Markey said. I couldn’t agree more.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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