While the rest of his family worked in schools, Keith Krueger went to Capitol Hill to focus on policy and politics, particularly in telecommunications and technology.
But over the last 21 years, he ended up using his technical and policy expertise to give school district technology leaders a voice as the CEO of CoSN — the Consortium for School Networking. During his time at CoSN, Krueger has led the organization in advocating for school and library broadband funding.
CoSN played a major role in pulling together a group of senators that helped pass the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Among other things, this act established the E-rate program for schools and libraries, which allows them to receive discounted prices on telecommunications and other services, including Internet.
Early on, that bill had a number of opponents that split on party lines, and it almost died before Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe from Maine cast a crucial “yea” vote in a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Krueger recalled. The bill went on to receive support from 81 percent of senators and became law.
“If we hadn’t gotten that one vote, it wouldn’t have gotten out of subcommittee,” Krueger said. “We sometimes don’t realize how much one person’s vote makes a difference.”
But as technology continued to advance, CoSN advocated for more E-rate funding that could be used for broadband and Wi-Fi, and Krueger saw his organization’s efforts bear fruit. In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission adopted two E-rate modernization orders to expand connectivity access for schools and libraries. This modernization included increasing the spending cap to $3.9 billion and funneling more resources away from legacy technology to broadband.
With the increase in funding, Krueger expects that most schools will have access to high-speed broadband and Wi-Fi in the next four to five years. That said, he’s turning more attention to the issue of Internet access at home for low-income families with students so they can learn any time. “It’s about really creating compelling learning environments, it’s about engaging parents in learning, and that’s only possible if we make sure that the lowest-income families have access at home,” Krueger said. —Tanya Roscorla