While presenting a speech during the 2014 Education Technology Summit, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler gave insight into the next steps for modernizing the E-rate program. After highlighting the FCC’s efforts to bring Wi-Fi equipment to E-rate applicants, Chairman Wheeler stated that there is still work to be done to improve Internet connectivity to rural applicants in particular.
Chairman Wheeler also called for solutions from beyond the E-rate program, such as state and local government and the Connect America Fund, and pointed out that the E-rate program can be modified to do more to incentivize service providers to expand their networks in rural areas.
Noting that support for rural areas should increase, Chairman Wheeler acknowledged that the size of the E-rate fund will play a factor in determining what changes will be made:
“Making changes to the current rules to rethink how the program supports connecting rural schools and libraries in unserved areas is going to be necessary. But it is also a matter of having sufficient funding and ensuring that schools can afford the ongoing costs of accessing high-capacity broadband networks.”
The FCC has provided copies of Chairman Wheeler’s remarks (as prepared beforehand) which can be downloaded here.