The E-Rate Program Defined
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established the E-rate program in 1996 to provide funding to connect the nation’s schools and libraries to broadband. At that time, only 14 percent of the nation’s K-12 classrooms had Internet access. While E-rate succeeded in connecting virtually all schools and libraries to the Internet, the program was not geared to support the bandwidth required for today’s world of interactive digital learning via laptops and tablets.
The FCC released a second E-rate Modernization Order in December 2014, making further changes to the program, which subsidizes Internet connectivity at schools and libraries across the country. Building on the FCC’s July 2014 E-rate Modernization Order — which took initial steps to improve WiFi connectivity in schools and libraries, and streamline program administration and data collection — the new order tackles the underlying connectivity challenges and addresses the fact that the program has been historically underfunded.