Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senator Jay Rockefeller today applauded President Obama’s plans to expand a national program Rockefeller created to connect schools and libraries
to the Internet.

“Connecting our students to the world is so important for their futures and ours. That’s why I was proud to write a law almost twenty years ago to help get schools and libraries connected to the internet, and it’s why I am proud that we’re building on the promise of that law now,” Rockefeller said. “At one elementary school I visited in our state, the E-Rate program allowed students to connect with NASA and the International Space Station, thousands of miles away from that classroom in West Virginia. I was profoundly moved to see the students’ faces light up when the horizons expanded right before their eyes. Theirs are the true faces of E-Rate, and why expanding the program is so important.”

Recognizing the challenges facing students in rural areas like West Virginia, Rockefeller helped create the E-Rate initiative in 1996. E-Rate’s aim is part of Rockefeller’s promise to make sure every student and adult has access to information technology through schools and public libraries.

In March, Rockefeller chaired a Senate Commerce Committee hearing in which he called for a major expansion of E-Rate program—and today the President seconded the idea by rolling out a plan that would use E-Rate to connect 99 percent of America’s students to the Internet through high-speed broadband and high-speed wireless within five years.

“I share the President’s enthusiasm for expanding high-speed broadband connections to our schools and libraries, and agree the FCC must update the successful E-Rate program to help meet that goal,” Rockefeller said.  “In its almost two decades, the E-Rate program has fundamentally transformed education in this country – we have connected our most remote schools and libraries to the world. But as impressive and important as the E-Rate program has been, basic Internet connectivity is no longer sufficient to meet our 21st Century educational needs. It is time to create E-Rate 2.0.”

BACKGROUND

E-Rate covers the cost of wiring schools and libraries to the Internet and provides student and adult access to information technology no matter their community or income level.

When Rockefeller first began E-Rate in 1996, only about 14 percent of classrooms were connected to the Internet, and only 5 percent in the poorest of classrooms.  Now, because of E-Rate, more than 92 percent of classrooms are connected.  

Since 1996, West Virginia has received more than $150 million in
E-Rate funding.