FCC To Vote On E-Rate Funding For Wi-Fi Hotspots

The controversial expansion of E-Rate funds is expected to be approved at the FCC's July 18 open meeting

FCC To Vote On E-Rate Funding For Wi-Fi Hotspots
Photo by Dreamlike Street used with permission

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2024 - The Federal Communications Commission is slated to vote on a controversial proposal to expand E-Rate funding to off-premises Wi-Fi hotspots.

“This update is how we’ll help close the Homework Gap and support folks on the wrong side of the digital divide,” FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel said in a Wednesday statement.

First announced last November, Rosenworcel’s proposal will use E-Rate funding, which subsidizes internet access for eligible libraries and schools, to support remote Wi-Fi hotspots.

“It should be the standard practice that students or anyone who can’t afford internet at home can check out a Wi-Fi hotspot from their local library,” Rosenworcel said.

The proposal will be voted on during the FCC’s July 18 open meeting and will likely be adopted with the support of Democratic Commissioners Geoffrey Starks and Anna Gomez

However, the proposal has drawn criticism from Republican Commissioners Brendan Carr and Nathan Simington for interpreting statutory language too broadly.

“We are asked to believe [by Rosenworcel] that when Congress says schools, classrooms, and libraries, it actually means private homes, offices, amusement parks, and, really, anywhere,” Simington said in his statement.

In 2023, the Universal Service Fund's E-Rate program spent $2.4 billion to connect schools and libraries to the internet, according to the 2023 annual report of the Universal Service Administrative Company, which runs the USF for the FCC.

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