A just-released FCC study
found that while 95% of schools and libraries that receive e-rate funding have
some terrestrial broadband connection to at least one facility (2%
have satellite and 3% still use dial-up), and while over half of those (55%)
have it at speeds greater than 3 Mbps, 80% say it is not enough to meet their
Ten percent said they had speeds greater than 100 mbps.
The e-rate program provides discounted broadband service to
schools and libraries through the Universal Service Fund.
According to the Harris Interactive survey commissioned by
the FCC, slow connection speed was cited by 55% as the reason their
connectivity did not meet their needs, while 39% said cost of service was also
a barrier, and 27% said cost of installation was a barrier.
Over half said they planned to increase their use of e-books
in the next few years, while 45% said they would start using or expand
their use of handheld devices.
Two-thirds said they provide some wireless connectivity
for staff, students or patrons.
For schools, e-mail is the most used application (98%
regularly use it) and the most essential (69%), while for libraries online
reference materials are the most used (86% of staff or patrons regularly use)
and the most essential (62%).
The FCC has already taken steps to boost speeds. The e-rate
program, which provides more than $2.25 billion in support annually, was
"upgraded" last September in a vote to, among other things, promote
the use of handheld devices and e-books and to boost speeds by making so-called
"dark fiber"--unused but already-laid infrastructure--eligible for
The 2010 phone/online study was conducted Feb. 25-April 5
among 1,060 e-rate recipients (about 5% of the total 22,819 recipients as of
2008). The margin of error is plus or minus 2.9% at a 95% confidence level.