If the overwhelming popularity of the Social Medial Lounge at NAESP’s 2013 Annual Conference in Baltimore last month is any indication, principals know the importance of incorporating new technology in their schools.

To maximize the exciting new opportunities that technology can present, 21st century learners need direct access to it. But even if schools are able to source new tablets and laptops, the broadband and wireless capacity needed to support such initiatives is too costly for, or simply unavailable to, many schools. That’s where the ConnectED initiative comes in.

In June 2013, President Obama’s administration launched ConnectED, an initiative to increase technology access in schools. One of the goals of ConnectED is to update E-Rate, a program administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) since 1996 to connect schools to the internet. In the current funding year, though, demand for this program is more than double the available $2.25 billion annual funding cap.

The FCC has launched a formal public comment period to hear from stakeholders on how to modernize E-Rate. This is an important opportunity for educators to weigh in on how E-Rate could better meet the needs of schools. More importantly, it offers a real chance for E-Rate funding to increase. With a larger federal investment in E-Rate, more schools could affordably improve connection rates and capacity of their Internet network—especially important as school districts gear up to implement new online student assessments.

The FCC’s wide-ranging Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) asks questions from how schools determine what their broadband capacity and needs are, and how E-Rate is helping schools meet these needs. The NPRM includes three stated goals for an updated E-Rate Program:

  • Increase high-capacity broadband;
  • Increase cost-effective purchasing; and
  • Streamline program administration.

Any interested stakeholder is strongly encouraged to formally submit comments to the FCC on any question raised in the NPRM by October 16, 2013. Directions on how to submit public comments to the FCC, as well as an E-Rate issue brief can be found here: www.naesp.org/e-rate.