Institute News

FCC Modernizes E-Rate Program to Improve Wi-Fi in Schools

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has paved the way for better Wi-Fi in schools by modernizing its E-Rate program, the nation’s largest program for supporting communications technology in schools and libraries.

The reforms, announced July 11, will allow for faster Wi-Fi and better access to the latest digital educational programs – like IWitness, USC Shoah Foundation’s interactive educational website – for an estimated 10 million more students and thousands of libraries. The FCC said the modernization is crucial for closing the Wi-Fi gap and allowing today’s students to participate in interactive, individualized digital learning.

"As technology evolves and changes, so does our need to keep our classrooms equipped with the latest tools students need to learn in the 21st century,” said Dr. Kori Street, the Institute’s director of education. “Today’s decision by the FCC is wonderful news for our nation’s young people, who rely more and more on speedy online access for programs like our own IWitness, which allows students to connect directly with the audiovisual testimonies of some of the 53,000 survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides."

In the Order and Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking adopted by the FCC, E-Rate will significantly expand funding for Wi-Fi networks and distribute Wi-Fi to all schools and libraries, recognizing especially the needs of poorer and rural schools. It will also streamline the E-Rate application process. E-Rate will also be supported by an additional $2 billion in funding over the next two years and will make another $1 billion available for the next three years by phasing out outdated technology.

Over the past 18 years, E-Rate has connected nearly all schools in the United States to the Internet through broadband and Wi-Fi.

IWitness allows students to watch testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and Rwandan Tutsi Genocide and use them in individual or group multimedia projects. In a way that transcends traditional print materials, the interactive, audio-visual form of IWitness connects learners with contextualized first-person views of history while training them to master the digital and media literacies necessary for the future.

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