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Sen. Rockefeller Schedules E-Rate Hearing

Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said Wednesday he would hold a July 17 hearing on expanding and strengthening the E-rate program.

The formerly relatively low-profile program has been in the national spotlight of late, powered in large part by President Barack Obama's directive to the FCC to leverage the program to boost broadband speeds to schools.

E-Rate is the FCC mandate to provide affordable access to cutting edge telecommunications service to schools and libraries, with that subsidy coming out of the Universal Service Fund.

Rockefeller helped launch the program 17 years ago and has been pushing for its expansion. His former top aide, FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, has taken up that standard at the FCC, which she said Wednesday may launch an E-rate rulemaking as early as next week.

"Nearly 17 years since we first launched E-Rate, it's time to strengthen the program," Rockefeller said. "We've got to bring the promise of next-generation broadband connectivity to more schools and libraries and begin to level the playing field for more of our children. I'm eager to hear from our witnesses on how we can work together to give more students a brighter future - one that we definitely know is within reach."

The president (and Rosenworcel) have called for 100 Mbps speeds to schools by 2015, and 1 gig by the end of the decade.