As someone tasked with keeping up on research in two arenas — education policy and tech policy — my job always get a lot easier when the issues merge. Sometimes, though, that merger isn’t so appealing to the rest of humanity — especially the ones that fall into one of the following categories:
- Pays taxes
- Has a phone bill
Sound like you? Prepare to be alarmed.
Swept under the rug Wednesday by a contentious debate on the future of net neutrality was a plan to expand the federal program called E-Rate. The E-Rate program was originally designed in adherence to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to propagate telephone and Internet connections amongst rural schools and libraries. The program has grown to include feel-good school subsidies that are too many to name (part of the federal takeover of schools). Wednesday’s expansion includes a program reported on by BetaNews.
Wednesday, the FCC announced the 20 E-rate schools that will be included in the next round of “Learning on the Go” pilot programs, where public schools test how mobile wireless devices such as tablets and notebooks with mobile broadband can be employed inside and outside the classroom.
Cut through the noise of government rhetoric and what have you? Some 35,000 teenagers with iPads funded from line-items in our cable bills.
If it weren’t enough that the federal government interferes with the cable market, the telephone market, and state schools… they don’t do it well.
The Universal Service Fund (AKA iPad slush fund) was originated by Bill Clinton’s FCC as a major subsidy to companies helping provide “universal” telephone service to all U.S. residents, hospitals, and schools. A recent Technology Policy Institute study by Scott Wallsten found as much as 59 cents of every USF dollar are spent on administrative costs and bureaucracy. Almost 60% of this rural telephony fund – turned teen iPad subsidy – lines the pockets of the idiots that dreamed up the idea.
(Cross-posted from Free The Machines)