Broadband Internet In Schools The Focus Of New FCC Spending Bill
February 4, 2014

FCC Plans For More Broadband In Schools

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to reveal plans to double a fund devoted to bringing broadband Internet connections to schools and libraries, supporting a White House push to wire all American schools with faster connection speeds.

Slated to be announced on Wednesday, the new spending will come from a reorientation of the $2.4 billion E-Rate program, which supplies money for “advanced telecommunications and information services” using the fees paid by telecommunications users, reports The New York Times. "Most of the redirected spending in 2014 will come from funds left over from previous years. Next year, much of the money will come from changes to the E-Rate program, including the elimination of programs that pay for outdated technologies, like paging services, dial-up Internet connections and email programs that are available free elsewhere."

Some see the move as the latest attempt by the FCC to decrease its administration and support of an aging telephone system as consumers choose wireless devices and broadband services for their foremost processes of communications. Consumer advocacy groups have warned the FCC about flipping its focus away from traditional phone customers, who tend to be lower-income and elderly citizens. Many consumers complain of being forced into buying wireless and Internet-based phone plans they do not want.

The E-Rate fund has come under examination for mismanagement and sketchy benefits. According to The Washington Post, for the past few years, an average of $500 million to $1 billion a year has gone untouched. An FCC official said the agency has been looking at the program to get rid of inefficiencies and will concentrate more of its grants on bringing quicker broadband speeds.

“In the Internet age, every student in America should have access to state-of-the-art educational tools, which are increasingly interactive, individualized and bandwidth-intensive,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in a recent announcement.

On Sunday’s edition of Meet the Press, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough announced that many private companies are lining up to support the President's initiative – committing over a half-billion dollars so schools can help students to "compete in this economy."

According to the Department of Education, about 80 percent of educational institutions have online capabilities that happen to be too slow or limited to places like front offices and computer labs, reports the Associated Press (AP). President Barack Obama has stated that American schools are dropping behind those in other nations with much better broadband technology.

Many of these schools have noted that teaching current technology lessons can be difficult because of the vast incompatibility with their equipment. The push from the White House is designed to take these institutions up to the level where they will be able to permit students to at least access internet streaming video, with an eye toward building Wi-Fi networks in the future.

Results from a 2010 survey reveal that about one half of the schools across the country have a technology shortfall. The same survey revealed that 60 percent of public libraries could not meet the bandwidth demands of its patrons.

For a long time, the public library has been the default solution for students who could not afford internet access at home to be able to finish homework assignments needing net access. If the White House plan is able to increase the accessibility to those services in classrooms and libraries, the educational gap for lower-income students could be appreciably reduced.