Study Suggests States Must Do More to Modernize Internet Connections in Schools, Libraries

A report commissioned by the Federal Communications Commission underscores that, while most libraries and schools have some sort of Internet connection, many are not at a level that meet their needs.  About 80 percent of the libraries and schools that receive funding through “e-rate” programs said that slow connections hamper their ability to access e-mail and view online reference materials, both essential for students and library patrons.

E-rate is a program supported by the Universal Service Fund, which subsidizes Internet services for schools and libraries across the United States.  Through e-rate, library patrons have access to high-speed Internet in order to look for jobs and apply to them, as well as obtain information for government services.  Similarly, the program has become a critical component of our children’s educational development since they need high-speed Internet to complete their homework assignments.  As such, digital exclusion equates to educational and economic exclusion.

And e-rate benefits the community at large.  A recent FCC order allows the general public to access schools’ and public libraries’ Internet facilities beyond their operating hours.  As unemployment is still our country’s biggest concern, it is critical that more people have access to fast and reliable Internet services to conduct job searches or submit job applications.  Last spring, the FCC also voted to promote the use of handheld devices and digital devices in schools and libraries, which half of the survey respondents said they are expecting to implement or expand in the next two to three years.  The use of the digital textbooks and other similar devices will help ensure that America’s students have all the tools and high-tech skills to compete in a global 21st century economy.

In 2010, legislators in states like New Jersey, California, Rhode Island, and Virginia took steps to maximize their communities’ participation in e-rate programs.  They understood that this is the time to invest in infrastructure, invest in our school children and get our people back to work.  E-rate, thanks to federal and state support, has achieved much success by connecting 97 percent of schools and libraries, but the recent study shows that states and the federal government should continue to ensure that Americans have access to the high-tech tools necessary for our economic survival.

Full Resources from this Article

Federal Communications Commission - Order and Notice on Proposed Rule Making - CC Docket No. 02-6
Progressive States Network –  The FCC Extends E-Rate Broadband Access Program to the General Public

This article is part of PSN's email newsletter, The Stateside Dispatch.
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