I think we can all agree with FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel when she spoke last month at SXSWedu: “With a reformed E-Rate—or E-Rate 2.0—we can extend the reach of broadband in our schools. We can expand the range of educational content. We can harness digital and mobile platforms and teach in new and exciting ways. In short, we can seize the good in new technology and prepare all of our children for success in the 21st century.”
Now for the tricky part—how do we do it the right way? Navigating the bureaucracy, politics, and industry logistics will be daunting. According to a recent survey by the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), 43 percent of districts said none of their schools meet the broadband goal of 100Mbps of Internet access per 1,000 students today.
Our special E-Rate supplement starts to lay the groundwork. Read a succinct summary of the government’s plan via Rosenworcel. Then consider the remarks of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which includes this nugget: “Real reform also means empowering parents to check up on what schools are doing with E-Rate funding. Schools and service providers should disclose more clearly and in detail exactly what students are getting with federal funds. All of this information should be collected and made available on a single website that would allow any American to see with specificity how any school in the nation has spent its E-Rate money.”
E-Rate will be funding the largest public infrastructure project of the century. Here’s to hoping it will be managed that way.
— Kevin Hogan