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Reports & Research

January 20, 2011

FCC Study Calls for Faster Broadband in Schools, Libraries

The Federal Communications Commission released a report on January 6 examining the state of broadband connectivity at schools and libraries receiving funds from the federal E-rate program, which provides support to help connect schools and libraries to the Internet.

The report is based on data from a survey conducted in 2010 that examined the success and challenges related to broadband use faced by schools and libraries.  This survey will help the Commission make data-driven policy decisions for the E-rate program by providing information on the educational and technological needs of schools and libraries.

The survey was commissioned by the FCC and conducted by Harris Interactive, Inc., an independent national marketing research firm. Specifically, the survey found:

  1. Almost All Have At Least Some Broadband: 95% of all E-rate survey respondents have some form of terrestrial broadband connection to at least one facility, while 2% use satellite and 3% use dial-up.
  2. Faster Broadband Speeds Needed: However, nearly 80% of all survey respondents say their broadband connections do not fully meet their current needs.
    1. Slow connection speed is the primary reason current Internet connectivity does not meet the needs for 55% of these respondents.
  3. Cost is a Big Factor: 39% of E-rate survey respondents cite cost of service as a barrier in meeting their Internet needs, and 27% cite cost of installation as a barrier.
  4. E-Book Use to Greatly Increase: 56% of all E-rate survey respondents expect to implement or expand the use of digital textbooks in the next two to three years, and 45% expect to implement or expand the use of handheld devices for educational purposes.
  5. Most Have Speeds Greater Than 3 Mbps: 10% of E-rate survey respondents have broadband speeds of 100 Mbps or greater and most (55%) have broadband speeds greater than 3 Mbps.
    1. More than half of school districts (60%) subscribe to a fiber optic connection.
    2. 66% of respondents provide some wireless connectivity for staff, students or library patrons.
  6. E-Mail Essential for Schools: For schools, e-mail is the most-used application (almost all schools, 98%, regularly use or access e-mail), and the most essential (69% consider it the most essential). 
  7. Libraries Rely on Online Reference Materials: For libraries, online reference materials are both the most used application (86% of staff and patrons regularly use or access online reference materials) and the most essential (62% consider it the most essential).

The E-rate program, which provides more than $2.25 billion annually to support telephone and Internet connections at schools and libraries across the country, was recently upgraded to allow schools and libraries to get higher-speed broadband at lower cost (FCC 10-175).

Source:  Federal Communications Commission