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US Federal Communications Commission to vote on plan to boost school internet speed

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said proposed changes in the rules would allow schools to lease high-speed access from state and local networks or take advantage of unused fibre optic lines in their areas.

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DNA Web Team

Updated: Sep 22, 2010, 07:11 PM IST

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The US Federal Communications Commission chairman said on Tuesday that he hoped the agency would relax regulations governing how schools use $2.25 billion in federal subsidies for internet access to help schools get faster internet access and to provide wireless access for students.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said proposed changes in the rules would allow schools to lease high-speed access from state and local networks or take advantage of unused fibre optic lines in their areas.

He said the 14-year-old E-Rate program that subsidises school internet access currently requires schools to use providers of retail residential Internet access.

"We're going to let schools do what businesses do and take advantage of all the different possibilities in the market," Genachowski said in an interview after a conference on education and technology in Mountain View, California.

The new E-Rate order, due to be voted on by the FCC on Thursday, would also establish a pilot project allowing schools to use funding to provide students with wireless internet access, which could become increasingly important as students use new devices like tablet PCs and smart phones to access their schoolwork.

He said that in instances where schools had been able to seek alternative internet access, they saved money and benefited from faster internet speeds.

The order would also let schools open after hours to provide internet access to their communities.

The initiatives are part of the FCC's national broadband plan unveiled in March, which includes improving internet access in healthcare and shifting wireless spectrum from television broadcasters to wireless carriers.

The plan hit a snag earlier this year when a US appeals court ruled that the FCC had failed to show it had authority to stop Comcast Corp from blocking online applications for television shows and other bandwidth-hogging files.

Genachowski said the FCC was weighing public comments about whether to make broadband services subject to stricter telephone regulations, which is opposed by companies like Comcast, Verizon Communications Inc and AT&T Inc.

He said the FCC had not said when it would make a decision on broadband reclassification.

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