The ConnectED program, announced today by the White House, hopes to get 99 percent of students in schools access to high-speed broadband, defined as no less than 100Mbps with a target of 1Gbps. In a 2012 report (pdf) on the state of broadband in schools, the FCC noted that 80 percent of E-Rate recipients said their broadband did not meet their needs, with 78 percent saying they needed more bandwidth.
President Obama called on the Federal Communications Commission to take the steps necessary to build high-speed digital connections to America’s schools and libraries, ensuring that 99 percent of American students can benefit from these advances in teaching and learning.
ConnectED will rely on the E-Rate or Schools and Libraries Program, which subsidizes internet service discounts for schools and libraries. Currently, E-Rate provides 20 to 90 percent discounts to institutions. Obama has called for the FCC to overhaul the E-Rate program, working with private companies and the President’s telecom advisors.
E-Rate is administered under the Universal Service Fund, which raises money by adding small fees to consumer telephone bills.
On October 27, 2011, the FCC approved a six-year transfer process that would transition money from the Universal Service Fund High-Cost Program to a new $4.5 billion a year Connect America Fund for broadband Internet expansion, effectively putting an end to the USF High-Cost Fund by 2018.
The New York Times reports that while Obama has asked the FCC to look for ways to make E-Rate more efficient, he’s also asking for consumers to pay an extra $5 a year into the fund.
The Universal Service Fund distributed a total of $8.71 billion to broadband and telephone access programs in 2012; of that, $2.22 billion went to the Schools and Libraries Program.
The federal USF pays for four programs. They are:
- Lifeline/Link Up . This program provides discounts on monthly service and initial telephone installation or activation fees for primary residences to income-eligible consumers. It subsidizes wireless or wireline communications.
- High-Cost . This program ensures that consumers in all regions of the nation have access to telecommunications services at rates that are affordable and reasonably comparable to those in urban areas.
- Schools and Libraries . This program makes discounts available to eligible schools and libraries for eligible telecommunications services, Internet access and internal connections so that schools and libraries may have access to affordable telecommunications and information services.
- Rural Health Care . This program helps link health care providers located in rural areas to urban medical centers so that patients living in rural America will have access to the same advanced diagnostic and other medical services that are enjoyed in urban communities.
The FCC estimates that its reforms will save the government $2 billion over the next three years.
Anyone angling to blow up the trillion dollar telecommunications business now has a pretty easy task — just put a 600 MHz cell site near every school.
The 1 GB fiber (subsidized by Uncle Sam) provides the backhaul while the 600 MHz band could provide nearly blanket coverage. Everywhere. School districts are local governments with powers similar to that of a town or a county.
Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and others may have the means, motivation and the money to deliver low-cost (even free) broadband. Google thinks there’s a $200 billion opportunity as brands shift to online. Intel, Apple, HP, and other hardware companies may also have a horse in this race.
A $100 quad-core phone or dual-core tablet can deliver education, news and entertainment — with behavioral targeting.
The iron grip of the wireless duopolies is anachronistic. The big cellcos are the last to realize the world is flat. They’re so 20th century.
According to consulting firm PwC, online video will increase from $2.3 billion in 2012 to $5.9 billion by 2017, or 9 percent of future online ad spending, but this is still a small amount compared to TV ads — which PwC predicts will pull in $81.6 billion, or 37 percent of all ad dollars in 2017.
Related Dailywireless articles include; A Simple Solution for the USA’s Broadband Mess, Universal Service Reform Passed, FCC Reforms $4.3B USF Fund, FCC Reforms Universal Service, Will USF Funds Subsidize AT&T Buildout?, Mobile: Trillion Dollar Industry, The Next Trillion, Amazon’s $835 million Ad Machine, Small Cells World Summit 2013, FirstNet’s Conundrum, Kickstarter for Fiber Nets?