- The Federal Communications Commission is pumping up funding for the federal E-Rate program by $1.5 billion.
- A 3-2 vote by the FCC's commissioners raised the program's funding cap to $3.9 billion, in line with a proposal released in November.
- Schools' telephone service fees will also rise $1.90 per year per line as a result of the move, a 17.2% increase that Republican commissioner Ajit Pai said would impact struggling families at the schools served by the program.
The E-Rate program helps subsidize telecommunications and Internet access at schools and libraries, particularly those with limited resources. In recent years, its focus has been largely on ensuring schools have infrastructure in place for high-speed, wireless Internet. Thursday's cap increase is the first since it was initially capped 16 years ago.
Many in the industry praised the decision, including U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who said the increase advances the goal of President Barack Obama's ConnectED to provide high-speed broadband and wireless Internet to 99% of K-12 students by 2017.
In an e-mail statement, Funds For Learning CEO John Harrington called the move "a bold step forward," adding that "Internet access is an essential element of modern society. Yet Internet capacity in our nation’s schools’ and libraries is lagging. The majority our nation’s classrooms and libraries lack adequate Internet capacity, and, in effect, are excluded from the interconnected world in which we live."