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Balancing a (Bigger) E-rate Budget

This week, FCC Chairman Wheeler circulated a plan to raise the annual E-rate funding cap by $1.5 billion. This would result in a total of $3.9 billion available each year to help connect schools and libraries with broadband data and Internet access.

As with so many things in life, timing is critical – and the timing of this additional funding, were it to come about, could not be better. Last September we looked at the impact of the E-rate program’s current funding levels. With an anticipated $2 billion in rollover funding from previous years, it appeared that it would take more than 5 years before Wi-Fi dollars reached every school in America.

Under Chairman Wheeler’s proposal, the timing would look very different. Assuming that there is still $2 billion in rollover funding, plus an additional $1.5 billion in annual support, there might be a total of $5 billion available over FY2015 and FY2016 to support on-campus Wi-Fi connectivity. This means almost every school in America could move forward, full speed ahead, deploying Wi-Fi and maximizing their Category 2 discounts over the next two years. By the summer of FY2017, nearly $5 billion in additional support could be invested in our school and library I.T. infrastructures.

With the increased probability of more annual funding for the E-rate program, we are that much closer to ensuring that our schools and libraries are not left behind in the digital age. With the holidays fast approaching, it’s appropriate to note that with assistance from the E-rate program, a greater number of students could have access to premium technologies and receive an overall better education—and that, my friends, is the type of gift that keeps on giving.

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