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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 18, 2010
2:25 PM

CONTACT: Free Press

Liz Rose, Communications Director, 202-265-1490 x 32

Free Press Welcomes E-Rate Improvement

Group Says Congress and FCC Still Must Do More to Close the Digital Divide

WASHINGTON - February 18 - - On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission will consider an Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to enable schools that receive funding from the E- Rate program to allow members of the general public to use the schools' Internet access during non-operating hours at no additional cost to the Universal Service Fund.

The E-Rate program was implemented as part of the 1996 Telecommunications Act to provide discounted telecommunications and Internet access to schools and libraries in low-income areas.

S. Derek Turner, research director of Free Press, made the following statement:

"We welcome today's announcement that the FCC is giving schools the flexibility to make better use of their Internet connections by remaining open after normal school hours. This is a good first step. But as we recommended in a 2008 report, there is much more that can be done to enable schools and libraries to help close the digital divide.

"Such policies would include an ‘e-rate@home' program, which would enable these community institutions to use Wi-Fi technology to extend their connections into local neighborhoods. Policymakers should also explore programs that loan laptops to school children, helping them take advantage of these free school and library connections. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) just introduced a bill that would take this one step further and provide funding for home broadband connections for low-income students.

"Creative policy innovations like these will help close the digital divide and ensure that all children have access to broadband technology, which has the power to be the great equalizer in preparing the next generation for a more prosperous future. America's long-term global competitiveness is directly dependent on today's students, the work force of tomorrow, being ready to compete in the digital economy."

Read Rep. Markey's E-Rate 2.0 Act: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.+4619

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Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net



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