As part of the continued effort by the Commission to move toward modernization of the E-Rate program, the Commission recently held an E-Rate Modernization Workshop focusing on the challenge of delivering high-speed connectivity to schools and libraries. The Workshop featured remarks by all four FCC Commissioners and the Chairman and was broken down into two sessions: (1) a panel discussion with school and library leaders on broadband-enabled opportunities; and (2) a roundtable discussion covering expanding Wi-Fi access for schools and libraries and approaches for obtaining affordable broadband access through the E-rate program.
Chairman Wheeler noted the importance of modernizing the E-Rate program to bring wireless access to schools and libraries noting that “it’s about the person, not the building or the classroom." Commissioner Rosenworcel emphasized the importance of allowing for multi-year contracts to provide schools and libraries the ability to plan strategically for their futures and to help reduce administrative costs for the program.
Much of the morning roundtable was spent discussing the installation of Wi-Fi networks for schools and libraries and the need for better and more affordable management of wireless access once installed. The afternoon roundtable session addressed varying strategies for reducing costs, including the creation of state-wide or nation-wide buyer consortiums.
At the end of the workshop, Commission staffers emphasized the continued need for feedback and the push to move forward on modernization of the program promising that the workshop would not be the last request for discussion on the issues.