FCC takes up Obama’s plan for faster Internet in schools

The Federal Communications Commission will vote later this month to move ahead with President Obama’s proposal to provide faster Internet in schools across the country.

Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn circulated the proposal with the other two commissioners on Friday. Jessica Rosenworcel, the commission’s other Democrat, has also expressed support for the plan.

Last month, Obama called on the FCC to expand its E-Rate program to provide high-speed broadband Internet to 99 percent of schools within five years.  

{mosads}”In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why wouldn’t we have it in our schools?” Obama said in a speech in North Carolina. “Why wouldn’t we have it available for our children’s education?”

In a statement on Friday, Clyburn said the agency’s proposal answers the president’s call “to close our education system’s bandwidth gap by modernizing the E-Rate program and providing our schools and libraries with a path towards affordable access to high-speed broadband.”

“Since its inception, the E-Rate program has succeeded in connecting nearly all U.S. classrooms to the Internet, and in 2010 we took a number of initial steps to cut red tape and help schools get faster speeds for less money. But now, to ensure a robust future for our children, we must equip them with the necessary tools to compete and flourish in an increasingly global and high tech economy,” she said. 

E-Rate is funded through fees on monthly telephone bills. White House officials said they expect the president’s plan would add no more than 40 cents to every phone bill per month for the next few years.

“I commend Acting Chairwoman Clyburn for taking an important step today toward beginning the process of updating the E-Rate program, so all students and teachers can access the transformative power of technology in their schools and libraries,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee and a leading supporter of the E-Rate program. “I look forward to working with the FCC on preserving and strengthening E-Rate as it holds the promise of a brighter future for our youngest generation.”

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