Common Sense Kids Action and the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) have announced their collaboration to help finish the job of connecting every school and library in America to high-speed internet by helping states and school districts access billions of dollars in the newly modernized federal E-rate program.
In 2014, the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) modernized the E-Rate program, a nearly 20-year old program that subsidizes communications projects for schools and libraries with small fees from telephone bills. The reforms resulted in $9 billion being available for high-speed fiber and Wifi projects at schools and libraries across the country over the next five years. While nearly all schools and libraries are connected to the internet, more than 60 percent of schools do not have adequate capacity or speed to perform most functions required in today’s highly digitized learning and administrative environments.
Not all lawmakers and state and district education leaders are aware of or clear about the recent E-Rate changes and have not yet taken advantage of the available funding. Common Sense and SETDA have unveiled their new user-friendly online E-Rate toolkit that explains the changes, available funding, and best ways to apply for it.
Common Sense Kids Action, the advocacy arm of Common Sense Media, and SETDA will work together this year and in 2016 and 2017 to encourage digital leaders to file applications for E-Rate funding, and Common Sense will advocate for states to set aside or appropriate funds that qualify for the new state matching grant created in the modernized E-Rate program that can make local high-speed internet projects even more affordable.
The toolkit is being publicly unveiled just before the annual SETDA conference in Washington, D.C., where technology and education leaders from around the country will gather to discuss educational technology policies and best practices.
The E-Rate reforms are part of the Obama Administration’s multi-pronged effort to expand broadband access in America and ensure every classroom and library has high-speed Internet by 2018.
Common Sense also strongly supports one of those efforts, the FCC’s effort to reform and modernize the 40-year-old Lifeline low-income phone service to also include an option for broadband access to underserved homes to ensure all kids have equal access to learning technology at home and at school.
Source: Common Sense Media, commonsensemedia.org; SETDA, setda.org