FCC looks for input on school broadband

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is asking the public to weigh in on the Obama administration’s plans to overhaul the federal program that puts broadband Internet in schools and libraries.

The commission issued a public notice on Thursday asking how it should best update the E-Rate program to meet President Obama’s goal of bringing high-speed Internet to 99 percent of the country’s students.

Comments the FCC receives will be on top of the 1,500 it has already gotten on the issue.

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“The record in this proceeding demonstrates overwhelming agreement among stakeholders that the E-rate program has been a crucial part of helping our nation’s schools and libraries connect to the Internet,” the FCC wrote in the notice. “The record also shows a strong commitment to ensuring that the E-rate program quickly evolve to meet the ever-growing need for high-capacity broadband so our students and communities have access.” 

Obama has made expanding the existing E-Rate program a priority for the year.

Major tech and communications companies like Apple, Microsoft and Verizon have helped contribute to the effort with a variety of contributions to speed up the effort.

In its new notice, the FCC wants people to specifically focus on how to ensure schools and libraries have affordable access to broadband, how the program’s money can be best spent and how its administration can be streamlined.

Tom Wheeler, the FCC’s chairman, explained last month that the commission would be able to get rid of existing inefficiencies and shuffle its administration to double the program’s funding to $2 billion over the next two years.

The E-Rate program is funded by charges on monthly phone bills.

Comments to the FCC are due by April 7.