Browse all articles

Future of Bipartisan E-Rate Program Unclear Under FCC Chairman Pai

Schools could lose $2.8 billion in annual funding that provides for better access to high-speed broadband internet and devices necessary for wireless networking.

The federal E-rate program plays a critical role in allowing kids to harness the power of technology in schools and libraries across the country. The program, celebrated by Republicans and Democrats, provides access to high-speed broadband and quality wireless network devices for schools and libraries across the country.

Last year, schools across the nation received over $2.8 billion in federal funding from the E-rate program, administered by the Universal Services Administrative Company under the guidance of the Federal Communications Commission. These funds are directly applied to improving the local public education infrastructure and allowing our children to harness the power of technology in our classrooms.

Our country's economic prosperity depends on educating our kids so that they can compete with their peers around the world, and we can't do that without access to the best of technology in every school. We have made great progress through E-rate to connect most schools and classrooms in America. But we haven't finished the job yet.

Current FCC Chairman Ajit V. Pai had voiced support for the program as a commissioner, repeatedly calling it a "program worth fighting for" and saying it has the potential to "help millions of children in America benefit from digital learning." Of course, we agree with him on those points. However, since then, Chairman Pai has refused to commit to protecting the program; retracted a progress report demonstrating E-rate's success following its modernization; and expressed a desire to alter funding for the program in a way that would leave countless kids behind. Earlier this month, when testifying before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, Chairman Pai refused to commit to protecting the E-rate program.

Thank you to our champions on this issue like Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, who has stood up for our children in the past and continues to fight for a strong E-rate program. We need him to continue that fight by holding Chairman Pai accountable for his promise to America's kids.

There should be absolutely no doubt in the minds of the public that the FCC and Congress stand squarely behind this indisputably successful program that has connected millions of schoolchildren to educational opportunities and future economic success. Our country's future is at stake.

Tell Chairman Pai to keep his promise and commit to kids by supporting the federal E-rate program.

JR Starrett
JR oversees Let's Invest Large in Youth (LILY), a multi state program for Common Sense Kids Action. In this capacity JR works with a team of internal and external stakeholders to identify and introduce state based legislation that will positively impact kids. Prior to joining Common Sense, JR served as a seasoned political operative managing campaign efforts for some of the nation’s most competitive races. JR was recognized as a Rising Star by Campaigns and Elections magazine in 2014. He currently lives in San Francisco with his wife Morgan. JR is a frequent contributor to Campaigns and Elections Magazine, contributing to the Campaign Insider column.