Huffman Applauds FCC Vote to Increase Funding to Expand Internet Access for Low-Income and Rural Schools

December 12, 2014

WASHINGTON­—Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) applauded the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for their vote yesterday to increase funding for the E-Rate Program by $1.5 billion, expanding internet access to low-income and rural schools and libraries. Huffman had earlier urged the FCC to modernize the program and increase its funding.

“Digital connectivity will only become more important to education, and every school in America should have access to high-speed internet. Unfortunately, broadband technology has lagged behind in rural and low-income schools, leaving teachers without cutting-edge educational tools and learning material that students need to prepare for their future and to compete in the global economy,” Huffman said. “I applaud the FCC for their investment of $1.5 billion to help schools on the North Coast and across the country close the digital divide and ensure our students get the best education possible.”

E-rate was established by Congress in 1996 to connect every school and library to the Internet, and it has provided financial assistance to schools and libraries for the cost of telecommunications and Internet services for nearly two decades. E-rate provides discounts of up to 90 percent to help schools and libraries throughout the United States obtain affordable telecommunications and internet access. Today, it remains the federal government’s largest source of funding for technology in education.

However, the program’s funding level is no longer sufficient to ensure schools and libraries can access the Internet speeds and wireless connections needed to support 21st century learning. Earlier in the congressional session, Huffman wrote a bipartisan letter to the FCC urging them to modernize the E-Rate program. You can find the full text of the letter here.

The average American school has about the same bandwidth as the average American home, but with 200 times as many users. Currently, 72% of American schools do not have the Internet infrastructure they need to take advantage of digital learning opportunities, and fewer than 1% have the infrastructure they will need in the future.