I agree with you that "no area has greater potential to transform the lives of our children than education, and no technological innovation in our lifetime has greater potential to transform education than broadband Internet." But too many parts of our country remain, as you know, either unconnected or under-connected to the Internet, which means that large numbers of children are not receiving equal opportunities to succeed. To make matters worse, federal and state funding for educational technology has turned to dust during these difficult economic times - except, thank goodness, for E-rate funding. Mr. Chairman, the FCC's E-rate program is all that our schools and libraries have left - it's their lifeblood!
Unfortunately, E-rate funding is drying up too, and it's drying up way too fast. That's because demand for advanced telecommunications services and Internet access has nearly tripled since the program began 14 years ago. What was barely adequate funding 14 years ago is not nearly sufficient now, and tomorrow it will merely be a drop in the bucket. That is why the E-rate program desperately needs an infusion of funds today.
The timing, fortunately, could not be better. The FCC designed its new and exciting Connect America Fund to bring high speed Internet access to every corner of America. But the Connect America Fund needs a fully funded E-rate program to succeed. Thus it makes perfect sense to take funds from the Connect America Fund and to allocate them to the E-rate program, enough to make the latter a viable solution to the student and community access part of our country's broadband problem. That will not require increasing any fees or any new taxes, making it the perfect solution to a serious problem at a very difficult time.
Mr. Chairman, I urge you to please introduce and support an initiative to enable the E-rate program to complete its mission by allocating more funding to it from the Connect America Fund. Please give our children the connectivity and the opportunity they need to succeed.
[For additional information about this important issue, please read the Open Letter from Funds For Learning].