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FCC aims for major Internet investment in schools, libraries -- report

The agency is expected to announce on Monday a plan to boost spending on broadband funding for schools and libraries by 62 percent.

The FCC commissioners (left to right): Ajit Pai, Mignon Clyburn, Tom Wheeler (chairman), Jessica Rosenworcel and Michael O'Rielly. FCC

The US Federal Communications Commission is poised to announce a new plan that aims to improve connections to the Internet across schools and libraries, a new report claims.

The FCC will boost its annual spending on connecting schools and libraries to the Web from $1.5 billion to $3.9 billion, representing a 62 percent year-over-year increase, the New York Times is reporting, citing an FCC official who would not be named. The FCC will announce the move on Monday, the Times said.

Connecting schools and libraries to faster Internet connections has been a priority over the last few years at the FCC. According to the Times, the FCC's statement on Monday will include several key data points to bolster its point, including that 70 percent of rural school districts lack schools that can meet baseline high-speed Internet needs. In addition, the FCC says that an estimated 40 million students around the country have Internet speeds that are too slow to address the changing digital-learning needs of today.

The initiative is part of the FCC's Universal Service Fund. The student-focused section of that, called E-Rate, is designed to improve Internet connectivity in schools and libraries. According to the Times, the increase in funding means the cost will be passed on to consumers who will see an additional monthly fee on their phone bills to the tune of about $2 per year in additional cost per line. The fees apply to both landlines and cell phone service.

Looking ahead, the FCC has somewhat high standards for what connection speeds schools should be providing. According to the Times, the FCC wants speeds of 100Mb per second for each 1,000 students and eventually ramp that up to 1Gb over time.

The FCC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.