Today’s guest blogger is Michael Higby, Senior Business Development Manager
It was the mid 1990s. Bill Clinton was in the White House. Mike Piazza was slamming home runs out of Dodger Stadium as if there were no tomorrow. At the movies, “As if!” was Alicia Silverstone’s favorite catch phrase. Boyz II Men were rocketing up the music charts and a little known thing called “The Information Superhighway,” that we now all know and love as “The Internet” was about to rock our worlds.
Quickly, the value of the Internet to education was seen; however very few schools were wired. A federal effort, the “Schools and Libraries Program” administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sought to provide funding for schools to connect to the Internet.
Over time, the program provided some funding for other technology needs of schools, such as web hosting, telephone service and other non-broadband specific services and products. While the program did succeed in providing 95% of the nation’s schools with internet access, a new and growing problem emerged– a lack of broadband internet access in schools at a time when the availability of digital content was beginning to explode.
In July, 2014, the FCC addressed this lack of broadband and wi-fi infrastructure with a program known as The E-Rate Modernization Order, or simply, E-Rate. This program was established to modernize and streamline the nation’s schools and libraries universal service support program.
Then, in December 2014, the FCC went further and re-tooled E-Rate to focus strictly on broadband services and infrastructure.
As a result of this new restructuring order, schools are losing a revenue source that had been paying for several critical services such as web hosting. E-Rate funding had covered the expense of schools’ external and internal facing websites which had become critical for classroom learning as well as for parent/community collaboration. Beginning this year, web hosting services will no longer be eligible to receive E-Rate funds.
But, there is good news. While the FCC was in the process of restructuring E-Rate, Google enhanced and upgraded its free offering to schools with Google Apps for Education. Besides the popular Gmail and Google Calendar services, Google Apps includes Google Drive for Education with unlimited storage at no cost; collaboration via Google Docs and Sheets; on the fly video conferencing with Google Hangouts and Google Sites— which gives schools a dynamic tool to create shared workspaces and public facing websites for all stakeholders. Even with a robust content management system and full hosting included, it’s still offered at no charge for several critical services such as web hosting. E-Rate funding had covered the expense of schools’ external and internal facing websites which had become critical for classroom learning as well as for parent/community collaboration. Beginning this year, web hosting services will no longer be eligible to receive E-Rate funds.
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