The FY2016 E-rate filing window is officially open. As I approach what is likely to be a challenging season, I find it useful to reflect upon these three facts:

Supports Essential Services. Internet access is not a luxury. Our schools and libraries must have it in order to effectively serve our students and communities. Fortunately, the E-rate program exists and provides support for Internet access in virtually every zip code in America.

Stronger Wi-Fi. For years, the E-rate program came up short in its support for on-campus networking. Few, if any, applicants ever received funding. Now, thanks to the FCC’s E-rate Modernization Orders, schools and libraries are getting wired (or wireless, as the case may be.) As of today, 9,314 applicants have received commitments totaling $1.2 billion for on-campus broadband connections. Over 18 million students and nearly 1,985 library branches have gotten the green light to connect their students and patrons to the Internet. Even more are expected in 2016.

Still Here. For close to two decades, through topsy-turvy politics and budget ups and downs, in the midst of changes in administrations and advances in technology, the E-rate program has been a consistent source of funding for our schools and libraries. The world looks quite a bit different today than it did when Funds For Learning published its first E-rate news story in September 1997. Yet despite all that has changed, the E-rate program remains.

The E-rate program represents a wonderful opportunity for our schools and libraries, and, ultimately, the families and communities that they so faithfully serve. This filing window, in the midst of meeting deadlines, gathering data, and completing online forms, I encourage each of us to not lose sight of that fact.

Good luck, and God speed!