FCC Responds to Markey, Rockefeller Concerns Over FCC’s Proposed Changes To E-Rate Program, Approves $2 Billion for Wi-Fi in Schools

Senators want FCC Chairman to modify proposals that could jeopardize program’s success


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller, IV, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, and Senator Edward Markey (D-MA), member of the Senate Commerce Committee, this week voiced serious concerns and urged Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler not to move forward with several proposed changes that they fear could jeopardize the E-Rate program.  In addition, the Senators called on the FCC Chairman to raise E-Rate’s permanent funding cap. 


Both Senators were instrumental in creating the highly successful E-Rate program in 1996. At that time, only 14 percent of the nation’s classrooms had access to the Internet. Today, nearly all classrooms have access to the Internet.  Equally as important, E-Rate has also provided connectivity to American libraries so they can fully serve as employment gateways, places for civic engagement, and centers for lifelong learning. Internet connectivity in rural libraries funded in part through the E-Rate program has opened these communities to the world.  


In their letter to Chairman Wheeler, the Senators recognized the importance of expanding Wi-Fi technology in classrooms, but wanted to make sure that the FCC Chairman’s proposed changes do not compromise funding for basic broadband connectivity. They also expressed concerns about a proposal that would create a per student or square foot distribution mechanism for Wi-Fi support that could harm the program’s ability to support the unique needs of local schools and libraries. Finally, the Senators urged the FCC to raise the permanent funding cap, as the program has not been able to keep up with the overwhelming needs of schools and libraries. 


The Senators wrote, “As the founders of the E-Rate program, we applaud your commitment to schools and libraries across the country. Nothing short of our international competitiveness and children’s future are at stake with E-Rate modernization. That is why it is so important for you to take the time necessary to get this right.” 

Senator Markey’s statement praising the FCC decision can be found HERE

More coverage of the FCC decision can be found HERE

Click here to read the Senators’ letter to Chairman Wheeler.