The release of the highly anticipated National Broadband Plan, scheduled for February 17, has been delayed, leaving advocates for broadband reform in suspense. In a letter to Congress on January 7, Chairman Julius Genachowski of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requested an extension of one month to process the information the organization has gathered and to receive additional input from stakeholders. The FCC is creating the National Broadband Plan as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The plan aims to provide all people in the United States with access to broadband capability.
In October 2009, the School, Health and Libraries Board Coalition (SHLBC), which advocates improving broadband capabilities for schools, libraries and health care providers, presented a letter to the FCC expressing its concerns with the current E-rate program along with its recommendations for improvements. The E-rate program provides discounts to schools and libraries to help them acquire affordable Internet and telecommunication services. The coalition strongly believes in lifting the funding cap, which hasn't been adjusted since 1997.
"Schools need to have adequate bandwidth for students to take full advantage of today's applications." says Hilary Goldmann, director for government affairs atthe International Society for Technology in Education (IS TE) and a SHL BC member. "This is essential for K12 education."
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also an SHL BC member, has invested nearly $350 million in public access since 1997. "We've been interested in making sure access to technology can be made available to the country for quite some time," says Jill Nishi, deputy director for the U.S. libraries program for the foundation.
Supporters hope the FCC will take this time to weigh all the information. "We certainly want to make sure they get it right," says Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) and an SHL BC member. "We also hope the plan articulates how important E-rate is. They'll figure out the best way to get that done."