F.C.C. Backs Plan To Update A Fund That Helps Connect Schools To The Internet

Source: Edward Wyatt / The New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission voted on Friday to overhaul and possibly expand its E-Rate program, a $2.3 billion effort to provide schools and libraries with up-to-date telecommunications service and equipment, including high-speed Internet connections.

A proposal approved by the commission, which will be made available for public comment before a final version is completed, calls for funds to be moved away from outdated uses like paying for paging service and long-distance phone calls and into areas that will accelerate digital literacy, like Wi-Fi connections within a school or library.

The proposal also calls for measures that would drive down the cost of services, like adoption of purchasing consortiums, and the streamlining of administrative requirements — among them, shifting much of the required paperwork for applicants to electronic filings. “One of the biggest obstacles to seizing the opportunities of digital learning in America is inadequate bandwidth at our schools and libraries,” Mignon L. Clyburn, the F.C.C. chairwoman, said before voting. “Simply put, they need faster high-capacity connections and they need them now.”

Just last month in a visit to a North Carolina middle school, President Obama set a goal of connecting 99 percent of school students to the Internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within five years.

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