What do educators think about the Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries that provides discounts for telecommunications, Internet access, and internal connections to schools and libraries?
“Without question E-rate is the single most important educational technology program in the country.”
— Senator Bill Nelson, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
To test the accuracy of Senator Nelson’s assessment and to provide input to the FCC’s request for comments on the sufficiency of budgets for category two services under the E-rate program, we conducted a survey among K-12 IT managers and educators for their views on the program. The responses confirm that the E-rate program has had an astounding impact on education in the US. And if you thought the benefits were only for rural America, you’d be wrong.
When the new administration came to Washington in January, Tom Wheeler stepped down as FCC chairman and Ajit Pai, a strong opponent of net neutrality, took over. Almost immediately he blocked nine companies from providing subsidized Internet service to low-income families and rescinded a report on the progress in modernizing the E-rate program. During an interview with NPR, Rich Culatta, CEO of ISTE, expressed his concern about losing net neutrality and E-rate:
And the Internet, for the first time, leveled that playing field because it didn’t matter if you were in a wealthy school or an under-resourced school. And as soon as that goes away, we’re back to where we were before, where students are getting shortchanged based on the zip code they live in or, you know, the socioeconomic status of their community because they aren’t able to pay for those resources again.
As you can see in the infographic, 84% of educators have already used the E-rate program to help provide Internet connectivity for their students. In about half the schools, E-rate provided 75% of the required funding. Over half of the school districts would have had inadequate networks, were it not for the E-rate program. Of those schools that have not yet filed for E-rate assistance, over half plan to file in 2018 or 2019. The biggest reason given for not participating in the E-rate program is simply the lack of awareness.
Now is the time to take advantage of the E-rate funding opportunity for your network infrastructure. The application window opened on January 11, 2018 and will close on Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. ET. As our survey shows, the program applies not just to traditional public schools, but to charter and private schools, as well.
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