Rep. Ed Markey Tuesday (Feb. 9) announced a bill (HR 4165)
to update the E-Rate program, which was created as part of the 1996
Telecommunications Act per instructions from Congress (Markey authored the
original E-Rate bill).
The E-Rate program
uses funds collected from telecom companies via the Universal Service Fund to
subsidize access to telecommunications and Internet service by schools and
libraries at discounted rates.
Markey said Tuesday that the new bill, which he christened
E-Rate 2.0, goes beyond access to implement three pilot programs that would 1)
provide vouchers for low-income students to buy residential broadband; 2) fund
broadband equipment and service grants to some community colleges; and 3) allow
some E-rate applicants to apply for discounted service and technologies for the
use of E-books.
The bill would also allow the current $2.25 billion cap on the
fund to be adjusted for inflation and streamline the application process.