FCC Approves Reforms to Close the “Homework Gap”
April 2, 2016
~ Will provide discounted Internet to the Home ~
As you know, E-rate is one of four Universal Service Programs — High Cost, Rural Health and Lifeline being the other three. In a landmark decision, this week the FCC approved the expansion of the Lifeline program to provide $9.25/month broadband/Internet services to low-income families, in addition to the existing Lifeline voice telephone subsidies. Why is this important for schools? Studies have found that although nearly all schools have broadband and Internet available to students during school hours, when the lower-income students leave the school in the afternoon, they are unable to complete online homework, participate in group chats, turn in assignments online, e-mail with teachers, and use the vast resources of the Internet to augment their school-day studies. It’s called the Homework Gap and the Lifeline reforms will hopefully provide low-income students with the resources they need to compete equally with their peers. Schools will play a key role in helping to educate low-income families about this new opportunity after it becomes available.
The FCC estimates 3.9 million households with children under 18 have income levels that qualify for Lifeline and do not currently have home or mobile broadband service.
The income eligibility guidelines are the same as the National School Lunch Program, which is at or below 135% of the federal poverty line. The FCC established a set of minimum service standards for the broadband service which are 10 Mbps download/1 Mbps upload with a 150 GB per month data allowance for a fixed broadband service, such as cable, fiber, or DSL; or mobile broadband service with a 500 MB per month 3G data allowance (increasing to 2 GB per month by December 2018). Further, mobile devices must have Wi-Fi functionality with tethering thus allowing the service to be used as a “hot spot” for school-provided devices and other services.
Additional details about program implementation will come in the following months. The FCC’s press release can be found at: https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-modernizes-lifeline-program-digital-age
Julie Tritt Schell
PA E-rate Coordinator