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Using E-Rate to lead a Digital Transformation in Education

For many businesses, technology has become an integral part of operations, transforming the way people learn, think, and do their jobs. With the right tools, K-12 school districts can experience these same transformational benefits. Digital transformation in education means using technology to create better access to educational experiences for students. That can be using mobile solutions to allow students to access anytime, anywhere learning in a secure way. Or it could be using collaboration tools to create a shared learning environment, or data analytics to help teachers fill in gaps in students’ skills and knowledge.

While the benefits of digital transformation for students are vast, one of the biggest hurdles schools face in their quest for transformation is funding. It requires a significant investment to ensure network infrastructure is adequate, to purchase technology tools for students and teachers, and to train educators on how to best use the new technologies in the classroom.

Schools facing this hurdle should consider leveraging the E-rate Program. USAC just announced that the window for filing E-rate applications for Funding Year 2016 will open on February 3, 2016. The window will close 87 days later on April 29. If your school meets the criteria for the program, you can save anywhere from 20 to 90 percent on eligible services. These discounts can ease the financial burden of upgrading network infrastructure and put schools on the path to a successful digital transformation. To learn more about digital transformation in education and how the E-rate Program can help, check out this special report from Cisco and eSchool News.

On Tuesday, February 9, Cisco will host a webcast on E-rate and the digital transformation. The webcast will feature Scott Smith, the CTO of Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina, and John Harrington, CEO, Funds for Learning. Scott will discuss how their all-digital curriculum has led to more personalized, student-centric, and data-driven approaches. John will provide a briefing on current status of the E-Rate program—including procurement best practices and current filing deadlines. To register for the webcast, click here.

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E-rate Modernization: It Just Goes to Show…

…what we can do as a nation to solve what appear to be some of the most insurmountable problems in the world, such as access to the Internet for students in schools across the county.  Astoundingly, 68% of all school districts (73% of rural districts) say that not a single school in their district can meet high-speed connectivity targets today.  And yet, the FCC’s E-rate Modernization Program is making great strides to successful addressing this problem today.

For an additional $1.90 per phone line subscriber per year, up 16 cents from 99 cents per phone line per month, we will be able to deliver Wi-Fi to an additional 10 million students.  This is less than the cost of a medium soda, and certainly less than the cost of a latte, and this is per year.  As a nation, less than $2 per year can provide what many of us take for granted, access to the Internet.

Yesterday’s announcement of a draft plan by FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler  to increase the E-rate fund by $1.5B annually is welcome news for schools struggling to provide access to students.  If approved, this means that the overall E-rate cap will increase from $2.4B to $3.9B, and it will include a series of targeted policy changes to enhance options available for schools and libraries to purchase affordable high-speed broadband.

Our chairman and CEO of Cisco, John Chambers, said in a statement yesterday, “This proposal, if adopted, will breathe new life into the program and will help our children and grandchildren prepare for an ‘Internet of Everything’ future where technology is integrated into all aspects of work, life, and education.”

In total, the program improvements will target an additional $5B for Wi-Fi over the next five years, which is sufficient to expand Wi-Fi networks in all schools and libraries. The effort will potentially provide a 75% increase in Wi-Fi funding for rural schools over the next five years and a 60 percent increase for urban schools, delivering Wi-Fi to an additional 10 million students in 2015 alone.

It just goes to show that, together, we can make a difference.  We can provide access, and we can prepare our students for the future.

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Statement of John Chambers on Funding for the E-Rate Program

Statement from Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers:

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler today unveiled a landmark proposal that has the power to transform our nation’s classrooms and put the power of the Internet at the fingertips of all teachers and students.

Connecting students and teachers in the classroom is one of the most important things that our nation can do to dramatically improve our educational system. Connected classrooms will provide students with real-time access to the world’s libraries, incredible science experiments, and a wealth of video, apps and other rich media content.  It also will connect students in rural areas, as well as enable students to take innovative and specialized courses at other schools and other districts.

The effects of this decision will be felt for decades. Not only will it encourage more students to enter the fields that make up STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math — but it will also help make our students and our nation more competitive on the global stage. The nations that are on the leading edge of the digital revolution will be the ones that lead in terms of innovation, job creation and economic growth.

The E-Rate program forms the bedrock of the federal government’s effort to connect our nation’s schools and libraries to the Internet. This proposal, if adopted, will breathe new life into the program and will help our children and grandchildren prepare for an ‘Internet of Everything’ future where technology is integrated into all aspects of work, life, and education.

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Statement of Patrick S. Finn on the FCC’s Order to Modernize and Reform the E-Rate Program

“The FCC, under the leadership of Chairman Tom Wheeler, has taken a vital first step toward E-rate modernization and reform today.”

It’s critical that we modernize and reform the E-Rate program to connect all classrooms across the country to high-speed wireless broadband within five years.  Today’s order, which provides an additional $2 billion toward Wi-Fi networking in classrooms over the next two funding years, represents a significant down payment on this goal.  Importantly, the FCC is prioritizing connectivity for students and teachers in the classroom via Wi-Fi for the next two years, with the intention of continuing that funding into the future. It will also help connect rural schools, while mitigating bureaucracy and red tape that impact the ability to quickly deploy the technology schools and libraries need.

To compete and succeed in the global marketplace, our students and teachers need to have access to the world’s libraries, scientific discoveries, and innovative educational tools at their fingertips.  That’s where E-rate comes in. E-rate is the foundation for Internet access in public schools and libraries across America. Read More »

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Cisco Supports Goals of Presidential Initiative to Connect More Schools and Libraries to the Internet

Cisco – with more than 15 years of experience in implementing technology solutions in K-12 schools — strongly supports the goals of President Obama’s initiative to connect more schools and libraries to the Internet, and at faster speeds.

We understand that technology is changing the world.  Our children aren’t just competing against the kids down the street for a spot in college or a job, but with children around the world.  So our children need to have cutting-edge technology in their hands and access to the vast amounts of information at their fingertips.

That’s where the federal “E-rate” program comes in.  E-rate provides discounts for Internet access and internal networking for schools and libraries across America.  Since its inception 15 years ago, E-rate has helped connect over 100,000 schools to the Internet in all 50 states.  Its impact on the education of our nation’s school children has been nothing short of incredible. Read More »

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