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E-Rate Brought Classroom Internet Up by 80 Percent

The Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program is formally known as the Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries . It was created under the 1996 Telecommunications Act and is administered through the Universal Service Administrative Company, an independent, not-for-profit corporation.

Some facts about the program:

Changes in Internet connection rates over the years: According to the FCC, when the 1996 law was enacted, 14 percent of classrooms had Internet access. As of 2005, 94 percent of U.S. classrooms had Internet access and 98 percent of public libraries in 2006 were connected.

E-Rate funding demand: In funding year 2013, the Universal Service Administrative Company reported that the program received 45,000 applications, amounting to nearly $5 billion worth of requests. The program is limited to $2.4 billion. Applications came from nearly 95,400 schools or districts and almost 11,700 libraries.

The breakdown between demand for “Priority 1” (Internet connections) and “Priority 2”(internal improvements like Wi-Fi) services: According to USAC, demand for Priority 1 services totaled $2.71 billion while demand for Priority 2 was $2.28 billion.

Funding for internal connections: According to the FCC, in funding year 2012, Priority 2 requests were funded only for the poorest schools. In funding year 2013, there was no money for requests for support for internal connections. Looking at the 2008 to 2013 period, the agency says E-Rate supported internal connections in 4 percent to 11 percent of participating schools. For libraries over this time period, a maximum of 3 percent of public libraries got funding for internal connections.

The portion of E-Rate funding used for non-broadband services: According to a study by the group Education SuperHighway, $1.1 billion, or 46 percent of E-Rate funding, is being spent on non-broadband services, including phones, email and Web hosting.

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