How E-Rate and ConnectED Plan to Connect 99% of U.S. Students


Windstream shares new ConnectED and E-Rate announcements.

ConnectED, a White House initiative launched in June 2013, is a five-year plan to close the technology gap in schools—connecting 99% of America’s students to high-speed Internet by 2018. Ambitious? Absolutely. Doable? By all means.

ConnectED directives coupled with the “Modernization of E-Rate” (with significant funding and access changes), will make great strides in helping schools and libraries reach this ambitious goal. At the ConnectED Superintendent Summit held late last month at the White House, more than 100 school superintendents and educators in attendance were joined by 1200 more online to do exactly that—pledging their commitment to ConnectED and digitally signing the Future Ready District Pledge.

President Obama noted in his address at the Summit that, “Right now, fewer than 40 percent of public schools have high-speed Internet in their classrooms.” He went on to share examples of how other countries are already “trying to out-educate us today so they can out-compete us tomorrow.” South Korea is replacing all of its textbooks with digital content, and training all of its teachers to use technology in the classroom. Singapore is equipping every school with broadband that’s over 40 times faster than the connection in the average American home. You can read the full text of the President’s Summit remarks on the White House website. 

Highlights of the modernization of E-Rate are summarized in the FCC’s “Summary of the E-Rate Modernization Order” and in our earlier “E-Rate Gets a Makeover” blog post.  And in late-breaking news, the FCC just last week adopted an Order to raise the E-Rate annual budget from $2.6 billion to $3.9 billion, further supporting the goals of ConnectED and the Modernization Order.

Three primary goals and implications of E-Rate modernization include:

  • Continued focus on affordable access to high-speed broadband and adoption of WiFi as an E-Rate eligible service, with an injection of $2 billion over the next two years specifically allocated to WiFi installation and networks.
  • Maximizing E-Rate Spending and Cost Efficiencies, via new measures that will facilitate pricing transparency and encourage consortia and bulk purchasing.
  • Simplifying the E-Rate Application Process by simplifying the application process and discontinuing Technology Plan requirements.

With the advent of E-Rate modernization, ConnectED completes the equation with initiatives to jumpstart learning technology across the nation’s K – 12 schools.

ConnectED initiatives for fostering a robust ecosystem for digital learning include:

  • Connecting America’s Schools: Upgrading connectivity, connecting 99% of America’s students through next-generation broadband
  • Improve Teaching: Ensure that every educator in America receives support and training in using education technology tools, with access to new resources to improve student learning.
  • Encourage Private Sector Innovation: Encourage leading technology companies to support ConnectED initiatives with price-competitive, feature rich devices, software and applications.    

At Windstream, we’re helping schools and libraries navigate the E-Rate application process. In fact, we’ve been an approved E-Rate service provider since the program’s inception in 1997. Our solutions for Education are helping thousands of schools and libraries compete more effectively in today’s digital world—while saving 20 to 90 percent on eligible data, voice, network and cloud technology and services. Read our recent blog posts, “E-Rate Form 470s Just Got Easier” and “5 E-Rate Reminders” for more E-Rate insight. And talk to a trusted, experienced Windstream E-Rate advisor to learn more about E-Rate modernization and new opportunities available to you.

As the President said in his summit address, “In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, the least we can do is expect that our schools are properly wired.” We couldn’t agree more.