E-rate for schools & libraries gets an upgrade

By Anne Collier

School and libraries are getting what they asked for. Today the FCC announced new rules for the E-rate, one impact of which will be faster connections for schools and libraries who receive the federal funding for Internet connectivity, ConnectSafely’s Larry Magid reports in the Huffington Post (78% of them had wanted faster connections, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski told Larry in an interview for CNET Tuesday ). “Under the new rules, schools will be encouraged to upgrade to 1 gigabit which is a thousand times faster than the 1 megabit service that many schools use today,” Larry writes. Education Week blogger Ian Quillen reports that one of the most interesting provisions “is a plan to better enable learning via mobile computing devices.” He adds that many educators he’d interviewed “longed for” e-rate changes that would “help them expand mobile learning programs using school-issued devices. Currently such devices cannot be taken home if purchased under the E-rate.” Also very interesting, I think, is the new rule that allows schools to provide broadband wi-fi access to their communities during non-school hours, made feasible now, Larry Magid reports, by the FCC’s approval of “so-called ‘Super WiFi,’ which uses the white space between TV channels as unlicensed spectrum for signals that can travel much further than current WiFi.” So it’s conceivable, now, that families living in school neighborhoods will be able to have free broadband Internet access after school hours, which would help narrow the digital divide – another indicator, too, of how ubiquitous Internet access is becoming, something that families will want to keep in mind as they develop strategies for kids’ safe, constructive Internet use.

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