Schools and libraries will receive full funding of their E-rate program requests this year, as a result of a modernization of the policy and budget changes enacted last year, according to the Federal Communications Commission.
Until last year, the E-rate program, which helps schools and libraries underwrite the cost of telecommunications services, had not been modernized in 18 years. The FCC updated the program in July to prioritize aid for broadband and Wi-Fi connectivity while phasing out support for older technologies. In December, the funding cap was raised by $1.5 billion, to $3.9 billion a year.
Last week, the FCC announced that under the E-rate program for 2015, it will be able to honor nearly $2.3 billion in eligible requests for telecommunications, telecommunications services, and Internet access and about $1.6 billion for internal connections and managed Wi-Fi services. For the past three years, the commission had been unable to allocate any Wi-Fi funds.
Ratepayers will be spared an increase in universal-service-fund fees to cover the boost in funding this year, said Jon Wilkins, the FCC’s managing director. When the FCC changed the E-rate program, it projected a need to raise fees on telecommunications providers, which are typically passed on to consumers. It had been projected that would amount to about $1.90 per year per phone, or less than $6 per household, this year. Instead, a reserve in unspent money that had been freed up will be allocated to meet schools’ and libraries’ needs for 2015, the FCC indicated.
In the future, new money for the program is expected to come from these increased fees on telecommunications providers.
A version of this article appeared in the May 20, 2015 edition of Education Week as E-Rate Funding Requests by Schools, Libraries to Be Paid in Full