FCC Proposes New E-Rate Initiative to Fund Off-Campus Wi-Fi

The FCC’s proposal would allow schools and libraries to request E-Rate funding to support remote connectivity.

FCC Proposes New E-Rate Initiative to Fund Off-Campus Wi-Fi
Photo of FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel, taken May 2016 with permission.

WASHINGTON November 8, 2023 – The Federal Communications Commission announced Wednesday a proposal to allow schools and libraries to submit applications for funding through the E-Rate program to subsidize internet services needed for remote learning.

The E-Rate program, currently administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company with guidance from the FCC, provides monthly discounts on internet services to schools and libraries.

The proposed update to the program would now allow applicants to request funding to support Wi-Fi hotspots and internet services to be used off of school campuses to improve the experience of remote learning while supporting other online school resources like virtual library services.

Previous changes to the E-Rate Program have been opposed by lawmakers, such as when FCC Chariwoman Jessica Rosenworcel put forth a “Learn Without Limits” initiative in June of this year which aimed to get Wi-Fi onto school buses.

The announcement Wednesday also highlighted the fact that the Emergency Connectivity Fund, a $7.1 billion program aimed at supporting schools to develop digital learning environments, is set to phase out in June of 2024.

“During the pandemic we saw the power of community-driven efforts to help close the digital divide. Many schools and libraries found ways to support internet access by loaning out Wi-Fi hotspots. Some used this agency’s Emergency Connectivity Fund to do so,” said Rosenworcel.

She echoed that while the ECF made a great impact it is time to move toward a more permanent solution to support digital connectivity in schools.

The FCC’s new E-Rate proposal is now subject to comment from the public.

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