By guest blogger Sam Atkeson
CEOs and leaders of 100 ed-tech companies and organizations have come together in a letter urging the Federal Communications Commission to "modernize, expand, and strengthen" the E-rate program.
Pointing to what many ed-tech advocates see as a digital divide in K-12 schools, the letter argues that there is an urgent need to connect America's students to high-speed broadband and ubiquitous Wi-Fi—what it calls the "foundation of the 21st century classroom."
"If we want our students and teachers to have the opportunity to utilize the next-generation educational applications and content our companies are creating," the letter reads, "America's schools need 100 Mbps or more of Internet access today and 1 Gbps by 2017."
FCC officials are currently weighing proposals to rewrite the E-rate program with the goal of streamlining and updating its operations and ensuring that it supports technologies schools need the most.
The letter cites four imperatives for improving connectivity if U.S. industry and education are to compete on the world stage:
- Focusing the E-rate program on broadband connectivity and infrastructure to give the E-rate greater impact on learning;
- Investing in upgrades that will connect every school to fiber and every classroom to Wi-Fi;
- Improving the affordability of broadband for America's schools by maximizing competiton and the broadband options available; and
- Increasing transparency and accountability to reduce costs and improve efficiency by collecting and releasing more data about existing network infrastructure, how funds are spent, and the prices paid by schools for their E-rate services.
The letter was organized by the San Francisco-based ed-tech organization Education Superhighway, which works to increase access to digital learning by providing schools with greater Internet infrastructure. The organizations with representatives signing include Amplify, Dreambox Learning, Girls who Code, Imagine K-12, Noodle, and Sally Ride Science.
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