School Tech Directors Call for Bigger Staff, Faster Applications for E-Rate

Associate Editor

The Consortium for School Networking, an organization that represents district technology leaders, is expected next week to call on the Federal Communications Commission to boost funding for the Universal Service Administrative Company, which administers the E-rate program.

The company, which is a nonprofit, manages distribution of the E-rate funds that are used to subsidize schools’ and libraries’ broadband purchases at discounted prices. About 70 percent of schools today lack the Internet speed they need, the FCC said this week. 

The extra funds would be used to hire more people, with the goal of increasing the speed with which district applications are processed so schools could access the E-rate funds faster, according to a source at the consortium.

E-rate provides more than $2 billion annually to schools and libraries. Funding for the E-rate itself comes from fees charged to telecoms; most of those fees are passed on to consumers.

On Wednesday, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler pledged to clear aside bureaucratic interference in an effort to make it easier for schools and libraries to secure E-rate funding for the most relevant technologies—while also saying the agency will wait before considering raising the overall size of the program, a policy goal of many school technology advocates.

Earlier this week, federal officials indicated that they are planning to double support for schools’ and libraries’ broadband connectivity through the E-rate program, a step that comes amid increasing demands in the education community for faster, more reliable Internet service.  

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