HSLI Newsletter

Serving Illinois Health Information Professionals

Funding Increase for Providing Internet Access

On December 11, the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) voted to raise fees on phone users, by about $2.00 per year, in order to increase funding for the E-Rate program. The program provides Internet access to schools in impoverished areas. Currently, annual funding for E-rate is about $2.4 billion; the fee increase will raise funding levels to $3.9 billion. The fee increase was sought because of the continuing need to close the gap between schools that have access to the latest online technologies and those that lack access to reliable Internet, period. In recent years, almost three times as many schools have applied for funding as there has been money to distribute.

“E-Rate” is the general name for the Schools and Libraries Program. The program was originally authorized in 1996, as part of the Telecommunications Act. Since then, the program has continually upgraded the kinds of technology it makes available to schools. The most recent initiative, launched this past summer, seeks to install Wi-Fi in as many school as possible. Even with these efforts, a significant gap still exists. According to the FCC, 39% of schools in affluent areas have the latest in high-speed Internet access, whereas only 14% of schools in less-affluent areas do. More troublingly, 68% of all school districts, including 73% of all rural districts, believe that not a single school in their district can currently meet the long-term goals for high-speed Internet access.

For more information on the E-Rate program and its impact, please click here.

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