LEAD Commission Highlights Support for E-Rate Modernization & Cost Effective Goals in FCC Filing


Nov. 11, 2013

CONTACT: Claire Lerner



With Strong Support for Revitalizing E-Rate, LEAD Commission Offers Suggestions Refocusing Program on Efficiently Connecting Schools with Ultra-Fast Broadband


WASHINGTON, D.C. – The bipartisan Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission filed reply comments in the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) E-Rate rulemaking focusing on the need for clear goals and cost effective solutions to bring America’s schools and libraries faster Internet connections and the advantages of digital learning.

In reviewing the more than 600 initial comments that have been filed in the FCC’s proceeding, the LEAD Commission found the following themes and made the corresponding recommendations:

  • Universal support for the notion that America needs to supply modern communications tools to students, teachers and schools. LEAD recommended that the FCC modernize and future-proof E-Rate “in a way that empowers all students to continually benefit from the latest technological innovations.”
  • Strong consensus that the FCC’s E-Rate program needs to be updated to improve bandwidth to schools. LEAD found that “urgent action is needed if the country is to provide America’s schools with the tools of 21st century technology and thus enable the United States to lead the world in digital learning.”
  • Support for the FCC drafting clear E-Rate goals while granting local flexibility to achieve those goals. LEAD agrees with this approach, and suggested the FCC adopt as an initial minimum threshold the commonly stated goal of 100 Mbps for every 1,000 students by 2014-2015 and 1 Gbps by 2017-2018. LEAD added the FCC should supplement those targets with an explicit goal of ensuring that the E-Rate program is able to meet future needs.
  • A need for the FCC to focus E-Rate’s spending and budget on efficiency to achieve the program’s goals. LEAD suggested E-Rate’s cost effectiveness over the long term could be improved by phasing down narrowband services (paging, directory assistance and 800 numbers) as well as telephone service and other services not directly tied to student learning.

Additionally, cost effectiveness of E-Rate could be improved by bulk buying of network equipment, allowing multi-year contracts and facilitating transparency of E-Rate data, which would help prevent E-Rate recipients from overspending. In the interest of efficiency, the LEAD Commission also recommended the FCC collect data on what equipment is installed, what is being used and actual spending.

Lastly, the LEAD Commission recommended the FCC set a baseline for E-Rate connectivity, procedures for cost-effective purchasing and set a budget based on new goals of the program, not the previous goals that were established in a dial-up world.

These comments come after the LEAD Commission released “Connected Learning in the Digital Age: Improving American Education through Technology” in September. The comprehensive report detailed specific actions to accelerate the expansion of digital learning in the K-12 education system to ensure that American students receive the best education possible and are equipped with the skills necessary to compete in the 21st century global economy.

The LEAD Commission report called on the federal, state, local, business, education and nonprofit sectors to embrace the following recommendations:

  • Solve the infrastructure challenge by upgrading the wiring of our schools with high-speed broadband;
  • Build a national effort to deploy digital learning devices;
  • Accelerate the adoption of digital curriculum;
  • Embrace and encourage model schools; and
  • Invest in human capital to train our teachers.

Answering a challenge from the U.S. Department of Education and Federal Communications Commission to determine how technology can transform K-12 education, the LEAD Commission spent 18 months working with more than 300 thought leaders in the education technology field to identify the barriers that hamper digital learning in the U.S. and the necessary steps to overcome those barriers. Its recommendations offer the opportunity for the U.S. to create significant long-term gains for its schools, students, workforce and economy.


About LEAD Commission

Answering a challenge from the Federal Communications Commission and the Department of Education, the Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission was established to determine how technology can help transform education in America. The Commission is co-chaired by Lee Bollinger (President of Columbia University), Jim Coulter (Co-Founder of TPG Capital), Margaret Spellings (Former Secretary of Education) and Jim Steyer (Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media).