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FCC’s Week: Schools Proposal Followed by Waffles

Julius Genachowski, FCC
Julius Genachowski, FCC

The Federal Communications Commission began the week by championing more efficient high-speed Internet services to students in U.S. schools. But by the end of the week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski was harangued at an open meeting by advocates of net neutrality carrying waffle-adorned signage.

In a presentation Tuesday in Mountain View, Calif., Genachowski made the announcement of the reform of the E-Rate program, a $2 billion fund that provides discounts for public schools and libraries to purchase telecommunications services.

Titled “Back School: Learning and Growing in a Digital Age,” the proposal would allow members of the E-Rate program to use unused fiber-optic wires (dark fibers) to boost Internet speeds that 80 percent of school administrators and librarians say are too slow, according to the report.

Schools and libraries could even become “school spots,” providing Internet access to students at home even after the last bell rings, akin to WiFi hotspots in cafes and airports, The Washington Post reported

Wired reported the expanded E-Rate plan is “part of the FCC’s drive to create a national broadband plan … which has been hampered due to complex legal and political battles over FCC’s authority to carry out the plan.”

Those battles revolve around the hot-button issue of net neutrality. And proponents of net neutrality who want to see FCC take a regulatory stand to guarantee equality of network traffic are mostly dissatisfied with what they perceive as Genachowski “waffling” on the issue.

Genachowski told CNet in a podcast interview there still were important issues to be hammered out.

“We’re doing that now in consultation with the broadest degree of stakeholders and we need to make sure in view of some court decision that came out over the last year that we have find a sustainable legal foundation,” he added.

Also this week, members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee considered a proposal that would give FCC authority over Internet service providers for an initial two-year period, Bloomberg reports. The proposal, which applies to service provided over wires and is still deep in talks, is a first step in resolving the thorny issues surrounding net neutrality.

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