…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.