The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

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


- 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:

Free Press was created to give people a voice in the crucial decisions that shape our media. We believe that positive social change, racial justice and meaningful engagement in public life require equitable access to technology, diverse and independent ownership of media platforms, and journalism that holds leaders accountable and tells people what's actually happening in their communities.

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