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FCC to Overhaul E-Rate Program

Working on a Computer

Schools and public libraries in poor and rural communities may soon get a faster and lower-cost way to hook up to the Internet. At present, telephone users pay a small fee that funds the $2.25 billion Federal Communications Commission (FCC) E-Rate program, which subsidizes internet service to schools and public libraries in rural and poor communities. According to the New York Times, the FCC is about to approve an overhaul of the program, which would allow schools and libraries to use the federal dollars to buy “dark fiber” connections — or unused communications lines — to hook up to the internet. That option  could provide them with faster connections at lower costs than those offered by commercial telecoms.

Most American schools have broadband connections, but not all. Last year, the program received funding requests from 200 schools seeking to pay for dial-up connections. The FCC order would also let schools make their E-Rate-funded internet connections available to local communities when schools is out of session. Finally, it would also promote the use of digital books so that students could lug home fewer textbooks each night.

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