An article on Wired provides some context.
The program will allow schools to use federal technology funds known as E-rate to hook up to unused fiber optic cables to provide speeds up to 1 Gbps to students and library patrons. The order will also let schools open up their computing facilities to the wider community after school hours.
However, many schools still have relatively thin connections to the net. With the change, a school district could apply to use E-rate funds to lease so-called dark fiber and jump from a 1.5 Mbps connection to a truly fat pipe that would allow students and library patrons to download and upload at speeds that rival or surpass the best speeds currently available.
One of the most interesting of the possible provisions is a plan to better enable learning via mobile computing devices. Many of the folks I talked to for a story about mobile learning in our upcoming issue of Digital Directions said they longed for changes to the E-rate program that would help them expand mobile learning programs using school-issued devices. Currently such devices cannot be taken home if purchased under the E-rate program.
I’ll be following its progress, too.