E-Rate is a program put in place in the 1996 Telecommunications Act to expand Universal Service Fund fees to schools in order to help them upgrade their telecom infrastructure. Telcos charge customers Universal Service Fund fees so that they can provide “universal service”, originally aimed at rural and other locations that were/are not profitable to service otherwise.
E-Rate has largely been successful in helping schools move from no internet, to DSL and low bandwidth internet, to cable and fiber over the last twenty years.
But now we have the realization that remote, blended, and hybrid learning models, brought on by the pandemic and likely here to stay in some form, require something more. They require that EVERY child needs a reliable high bandwidth connection to the internet from their home.
School districts all over the country have been scrambling for the last nine months to raise money from charitable sources so that they can provide hot spots and other ways to get kids internet in their homes so they can attend school. I have participated in a number of these campaigns and they have been heroic in many ways, but it is still not enough.
The FCC can do something simple and powerful. They can do it now. They can expand E-Rate to include low income households who need reliable and high bandwidth internet so that their children can attend school.
I would like to see them do that asap.
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