The FCC's E-rate program has committed $450 million to support funding for libraries and schools, which it says is six times the amount approved at this time last year by program administrator Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC).
In addition to other communications services, the USAC has allocated a total of $607 million in this first round of funding for 2014.
Among some of the projects that have been funded thus far include a statewide consortium in Maine that will provide gigabit fiber connections to 28 library sites, and in Indiana, E-rate will help support 2.5 gigabit Internet access for 21 sites near Indianapolis in the Warren Township Metropolitan School District.
E-Rate has become one of the key issues at the FCC. The regulator is in the process of reviewing how to modernize the E-rate program with a particular focus on increasing access to broadband.
Although the 18-year-old E-Rate program has connected 97 percent of U.S. libraries and schools to the Internet, many of those connections have not kept up with the times.
According to a American Library Association survey, one-quarter of libraries still have broadband speeds of 1.5 Mbps or less, and only 9 percent of libraries have speeds of 100 Mbps or greater.
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel echoed the need for higher speed broadband connections at schools and libraries during the Chief Officers of State Libraries meeting earlier this week.
"Our records suggest that 80 percent of schools and libraries believe their broadband connections do not meet their current needs. Eighty percent," Rosenworcel said. "So let's be honest. Those needs are only going to grow. Nationwide, in nearly two-thirds of communities, libraries are the only place people can access the Internet for free. Libraries have reported to the FCC that every year they see more and more requests to use public access computers and get online."
- see the release
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