15 Dec 2017
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FCC to invest additional $2 bn in high speed net in schools, libraries

MUMBAI: US media watchdog The Federal Communications Commission has announced that the agency will invest an additional $2 billion over the next two years to support broadband networks in schools and libraries.

This represents a doubling of investment in broadband and will connect 20 million students in at least 15,000 schools to high-speed Internet access.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said, “This investment is a down-payment on the goal of 99 per cent of America’s students having high-speed Internet connections within five years. As we consider long-term improvements to the program, we will take immediate steps to make existing funds go farther, significantly increasing our investment in high-speed Internet to help connect millions of students to the digital age.”

Funding for new investments in high-speed Internet will come from reprioritising existing E-Rate funds to focus on high-capacity Internet connectivity, increasing efficiency, and modernising management of the E-Rate programme. “We will take a business-like approach to the management of the programme, identifying opportunities to improve the ways funds are deployed and streamlining the process for schools and libraries,” chairman Wheeler said.

Established in 1996, E-Rate provides $2.4 billion to schools and libraries annually for communications services, and has helped connect virtually all U.S. schools and libraries to basic Internet.

The additional support will be targeted to address the most urgent Internet upgrade needs of schools and libraries. Today only about half of E-Rate funds go to true high-speed Internet connections.

Last summer, the Commission began a proceeding to explore ways to modernise the E-Rate program.

In November, chairman Wheeler launched a top to bottom review of the programme to examine how E-Rate can better meet the 21st century connectivity needs of schools and libraries.

The new investment in broadband will be one element of a comprehensive approach to modernising E-Rate. The FCC will also streamline the application process, increase transparency, and provide more assistance to schools and libraries to help them lower the prices they pay. In addition, the FCC will ramp up oversight and enforcement within the programme to ensure every dollar that is intended to reach a school or library gets there.