FCC expands community access to broadband services in the U.S.

The Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to allow communities to use local schools' broadband internet access during non-operating hours. Many schools receive funds for internet access through the E-rate program. However, the FCC's previous rules state that schools receiving E-rate funding must solely use the money for educational purposes.

"As a result, services and facilities purchased by schools using E-rate funding remain largely unused during evenings, weekends, school holidays, and summer breaks.  Waiving the relevant rules will maximize the use of facilities and services supported by E-rate by giving schools the option to open their E-rate funded facilities to members of the public during non-operating hours," as stated in the FCC news release.

FCC officials declared the new order will help adults taking evening classes, people requiring web-based government services, and unemployed individuals looking for jobs online. This is one step toward the National Broadband Plan, which is due to be delivered to Congress by March 17, 2010. The plan "shall seek to ensure that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability and shall establish benchmarks for meeting that goal."

Earlier this week, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski stated he wants home internet speeds of 100 megabits per second to be offered to 100 million homes within ten years.

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