FCC vote to fund E-Rate program at $2.25 billion

The Federal Communications Commission yesterday voted to fund the E-rate program at $2.25 billion, ensuring that schools and libraries will get the federal funding they need for telecommunications services and Internet access.

U.S. Education Secretary Richard Riley called the step "very significant" in preparing America's students for the future. "As we've seen in the first year of the program alone, the E-rate is making a real difference in our schools by providing needed resources that were previously not available or not affordable," Riley said in statement yesterday.

The commission said the $2.25 billion funding cap will be sufficient to fully fund all requests for telecommunications services and Internet access and to meet the needs of the neediest schools and libraries for internal connections. However, the commission recognized that not all applicants' needs will be met in full.

FCC commissioner William Kennard said in a statement that the digital divide is narrowing. "By funding to the cap, we'll be able to wire 528,000 public school classrooms to the Internet. If we meet this high demand, we will be able to help schools that teach 40 million American children," Kennard said.

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