Tom Wheeler, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, addressing a conference of the Council of Chief State School Officers, announced plans to phase out E-rate funding for outmoded services and pledged to create a more equitable system for helping rural schools.
The E-Rate program provides discounted telecommunications services to eligible elementary and secondary schools. However, Wheeler estimated that eighty percent of funding for wireless technology in recent years has flowed to urban school districts.
“The statute under which we operate is clear that Congress intended the principle of universal connectivity to be applied for schools and libraries in all parts of the country," Wheeler said.
Wheeler also emphasized the need to subsidize more modern modes of communication over more outdated forms, such as email and 1-800 services.
"Should we take money away from assuring broadband in every classroom to pay for these legacy activities?" he asked. "It is hard to walk away from such subsidies, I know, but we need to keep our eye on the prize."