With the Federal Communications Commission set to vote on a proposal to raise the E-Rate program’s funding cap next week, representatives from rural communities are pleading with commissioners to think about what it would mean for their students.
Kelly Moore, the principal of Dixon Elementary School in Dixon, Mont., writes [http://bit.ly/1yXd5fe] in a letter to the FCC that Dixon is an “isolated rural community.” The town is located in the middle of the Flathead Indian Reservation.
“A welding shop and a bar are the only businesses in Dixon,” he writes. “Citizens of Dixon need to travel a minimum of 12 miles to purchase gasoline, milk, medications, etc.” The public school is the hub of the community, he writes, which is “severely economically depressed.”
A vast majority of the students are eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch. Many of the parents are high school dropouts and have been incarcerated. Money from the E-Rate program has helped in the past, but connections are slow and out of date. Raising the funding cap by the proposed $1.5 billion would help the community a great deal, he writes.
• Moore and others are also urging the FCC to rethink the definition of “rural.” As is, it could shortchange some schools, districts and libraries by reclassifying them as “non-rural.” The Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association also weighs in: http://bit.ly/1ykuyQ9
• Speaking of E-Rate: One of the original architects of the program, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, mentioned the program in his farewell speech on Thursday. “We have worked to give children a fair shot through E-Rate, a program which introduces even the most rural classrooms and smallest libraries to the world through the Internet,” he said. “Access to a foreign language class, or scientific research a world away, won’t guarantee success, but it gives every child the key to unlock their potential.”