School groups 'cannot wait any longer' for FCC

More than a dozen school and library groups want the Federal Communications Commission to update its program to hook public educational facilities up to the Internet.

In a letter on Tuesday, the groups pushed for changes to the FCC's E-Rate program, also called ConnectED, including more money.

"We cannot wait any longer to increase E-Rate support. The time is now to permanently raise the E-Rate’s annual funding cap," groups including the American Library Association, American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association wrote.

According to the groups, demand to access the fund is often twice the current cap of $2.4 billion, yet it "has received no meaningful funding increase since 1998."

Additionally, most of the money is tied up for connecting schools and libraries to the Web, which makes it difficult to ensure that every classroom and computer within the building is connected. That is leading to "major roadblocks to students, educators and library patrons having enough bandwidth to perform online research, participate in digital professional learning classes and apply online for jobs or government services and benefits."

In order to make sure that the money can do the most good for students and the public, the coalition pushed for structural changes like restricting a facility from applying more than once every five years. 

"We think that this combination of changes preserves the program’s focus on poverty and will equitably spread internal connections to help support more applicants, including rural schools and libraries."

President Obama has made reform of the FCC program a priority, and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has pledged to work to restructure the program so that it is more efficient.