13 December, 2014

FCC Approves Funding Increase To Upgrade School Broadband

Schools depending on the FCC's E-Rate program to update their internet infrastructures are about to get a little more help: $1.5 billion was given out by the Federal Communications Commission in funding  the program . 

The decision was hotly contested -- with Republican commissioners arguing the cost was simply too high -- but the decision eventually split down party lines, passing with a 3/2 Democrat majority.

It's a major win for schools and libraries counting on E-Rate discounts, as the program's $2.25 billion budget hasn't seen an increase since 1997 (and a slight inflation adjustment in 2010).

The measure is more than just a funding increase, however -- it also tweaks several rules that previously restricted school options in the past. Educational institutions can now purchase "dark fiber" infrastructure to build their own high-speed facilitates if it's deemed a cost-effective option, and subsidized carriers in "high cost" rural areas are now required to offer schools and library similar rates to equivalent services in urban areas. Finally, some of the funds are being dedicated to ensuring that WiFi coverage is expanded in the next several years, enabling one-to-one student-to-device deployment in more schools nationwide. 

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