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FCC E-Rate: Schools, Libraries Seek $1.6 Billion for Wi-Fi

E-Rate applicants are calling for a total of $3.9 billion in discounted education-technology services that are distributed by the Federal Communication Commission’s since the 2014 reforms.

“The E-Rate program provides discounts on telecommunications and Internet services to schools and libraries,” according to EdTechMagazine’s D. Frank Smith.

“Last July, the FCC updated the program to include an additional $1 million to target wireless connectivity in these institutions. The reforms were also aimed at easing the application process for schools and libraries and lowering the barrier of entry for high-poverty applicants. And in December, the commission voted to raise the spending cap from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion.”

Now, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says that the $3.9 billion total includes $1.6 for internal Wi-Fi networks, according to his blog post. The hike doesn’t come without consequences. According to Smith’s report, the spending will impact Universal Service fees that are assessed on consumers’ phone bills. However, schools and libraries are still up to the challenge to grow their networks and become a part of the larger EdTech push nationwide.

“These requests reflect long pent-up demand,” says Wheeler.

“It is the first time in three years that E-rate has had any funds available for Wi-Fi at all. In the past, many schools and libraries didn't bother to apply for Wi-Fi funding because they had no hope of getting funds. That is no longer a problem. As projected last year, we will be able to fully fund eligible Wi-Fi applications thanks entirely to fiscal and programmatic reforms that freed up more than $1.5 billion for Wi-Fi. Not an additional dime in ratepayer fees will be needed.”

These E-Rate plans will level the playing fields for schools nationwide allowing high-poverty applicants to enter worry-free. There are still changes coming to the E-Rate plans despite extensive changes that took place last. The overall goal is to help schools and libraries get connected in the EdTech age.

Read the full story and comment below.

Article by Navindra Persaud, Education World Contributor

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