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FCC Takes E-Rate on the Road

FCC Chairman
Julius Genachowski is outlining changes to the FCC's E-rate
program on Tuesday. E-rate reform is one of the items being voted on at the FCC's
public meeting Sept. 23. Genachowski's announcement
includes allowing schools and libraries to extend E-rate-supported
high-speed broadband access at "affordable" rates beyond the classroom
and into students' homes.

The E-rate program uses funds collected from telecom companies via the

Universal Service Fund to subsidize access to telecommunications and Internet service by schools and

libraries at discounted rates.

The FCC earlier this year granted a waiver of its rules for after-hours use of E-rate supported facilities as

an initial step in extending broadband access beyond the school bell. Now it wants to take it beyond the

schoolhouse door.

The chairman will outline the FCC's strategy Tuesday at "Back to School: Learning and Growing in a Digital

Age," a Common Sense Media forum in Mountain View, Calif. The chairman is a founding board member of Common

Sense Media, which promotes digital literacy and parental control over kids ' media consumption.

The FCC has concluded that the majority of E-rate recipients (78% according to an FCC survey) don't have

sufficient broadband speeds to meet the demands of kids and their teachers, and so Genachowski says it will

cut red tape and increase options, including launching a mobile pilot program.

The commission will launch a pilot program for off-campus wireless connectivity for mobile learning devices,

it will also allow schools and libraries to tap into unused fiber already in place and state, regional and

local nets and bypass "more expensive options."

commission will also allow the schools to offer that fast broadband
service to the community so students can access "affordable" high-speed
access at home and "parents and teachers can receive
instant feedback on student performance, identifying difficulties so
educators can course-correct upcoming instructions."

According to a briefing paper on the announcement, "the FCC is also opening the door to "School Spots," where

schools have the option to provide Internet access to the local community after students go home. With

affordable fiber, these School Spots are a major step toward the National Broadband Plan's goal of connecting

an anchor institution in every community to affordable 1 Gbps broadband. School Spots will help ensure that

people who otherwise lack access to enjoy the benefits of super-fast broadband."