F.C.C. Increases Money for E-Rate Program for Internet in Schools and Libraries

WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday adopted a broad expansion and overhaul of its program to bring high-speed Internet into schools and libraries, a move that will also add to the fees tacked on to the phone bills of Americans each month.

The E-Rate program, part of the Universal Service Fund, will grow by $1.5 billion, to a spending cap of $3.9 billion, the first change in the base spending cap since it was set in 1997.

F.C.C. officials said consumers would pay less than $2 a year in additional fees per phone line, or less than $6 extra per household, on average; the average household now pays about $36 a year for multiple phone lines.

The amount an individual household pays can vary widely, with fees assessed on both home and mobile service. Businesses pay into the program as well.

The approval came in a 3-2 vote split on political party lines and drew fiery dissents from the two Republican commissioners.

Ajit Pai, one of the Republican commissioners, said that the proposal “shies away from real reform” and “simply pours money into a broken system.”

Michael O’Rielly, the other Republican commissioner, said the changes would make the fund “more complex, less efficient and potentially wasteful.”

Over all, the $8.7 billion Universal Service Fund has grown about 20 percent since President Obama took office. The E-Rate program accounts for about 28 percent of the fund.

Tom Wheeler, the F.C.C. chairman, strongly disagreed. “I am aghast at the hostility that is expressed to giving students the tools they need to get a 21st century education,” he said.

The commission’s action drew praise from Democratic members of Congress.

“The F.C.C.’s vote will ensure that our schools and libraries achieve the connection speeds and Wi-Fi needed to connect fully with our interconnected world,” said Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts.

The F.C.C. also approved an order requiring companies receiving financing from the Connect America program, a part of the fund aimed at high-cost, rural areas, for use in fixed broadband connections to provide a minimum download speed of 10 megabits per second.

The commission also released a public notice seeking comment on detailed proposals for conducting the broadcast television incentive auction, in which willing broadcasters will agree to give up their airwaves or move to a different spot on the broadcast spectrum in exchange for a portion of the proceeds from the auction of those airwaves.

A version of this article appears in print on December 12, 2014, on page B6 of the New York edition with the headline: F.C.C. Increases Financing for Internet Programs for Education.

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For the past 30+ years, computers, advanced technology and solving problems with this new technology have been his business. In 1978, he graduated from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC with the first graduating class in the 16 North Carolina Universities with an Information Systems degree from the College of Business. For the last 14 years Nicky has served as the visionary leader and CEO of CAROLINANET.COM, a web hosting and server colocation data center and since 2004 the CEO of Carolina Digital Phone offering hosted telephone services and SIP Trunking. Read more at his LinkedIN page http://www.linkedin.com/in/nickysmith

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