The Federal Communications Commission recently voted to overhaul an Internet program to shift funding from aging technologies such as landline phones and pagers, to WiFi networks and high-speed broadband services. The Internet program is known as E-Rate and the changes made in the program will be done in the interest of increasing Internet accessibility for children in schools.
The vote was not unanimous as the commissioners brought in a “3-2″vote and it is said that the votes were made along party lines. However, in spite of any opposition among members of the commission, Tom Wheeler – the FCC chairman, is now free to put his plan in motion. He says that his focus will be on shifting funding from aging technologies to where they are needed which is in making the Internet accessible to library users and students.
The disagreements among the commissioners that led to the 3-2 vote is not based on opposing the updating of the program but in the way that the Mr. Wheeler has decided it should be done. However, the opposition was not strong enough and now Wheeler is expected to soon embark on his strategy. If all goes well, the commission is expected to spend a billion dollars annually to expand wireless Internet connectivity in libraries and schools for the first two years. This money will come from what are being referred to as unspent money reserves. Starting from the third year, the commission expects that the savings made from any phased out technologies will be used to fund the initiative.
E-Rate Program Funding To Be Increased Later This Year
The commission is expected to increase the annual funding for the E-Rate program later this year. Since its inception in 1998, the program has had funding of $2.25 billion. According to Wheeler, this overhaul of the fund is meant to give students adequate Internet access to be able to cope with modern teaching strategies that are now being used in schools. Having wireless access in libraries will ensure easy access to Internet information, something that is important for students and library users.
However, there are still many concerns being raised concerning this new initiative. For example, the fact that the funds will be dispersed according to the size of a library or school is something that many are dissatisfied with. This is because they feel that it may cause the fund to run short of funds or worse lead to higher phone bills for consumers. However, many agree that it is a noble idea and hopefully any kinks in the plan will be ironed out along the way to ensure that the initiative is really effective.
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