Schools and libraries across the country will be getting the full amount they requested to upgrade their telecommunications and wireless services from the Federal Communications Commission, which capped the funding this year at $3.9 billion.
In total, the districts requested $3.92 billion [including $1.6 billion for internal Wi-Fi networks] — just over the budget. According to figures from the FCC breaking down the funds, about 40 percent of the money is going toward upgrading internal connections. About 23 percent will pay for telecom services while 21 percent will go toward Internet access.
The E-Rate program, which provides the money for high-speed broadband, was drastically changed this year, with new funds available for Wi-Fi in schools and libraries for the first time in three years, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a blog post.
These requests reflect long pent-up demand. 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. Then, we made our allocations more equitable so all schools and libraries would get a shot. Finally, we prioritized broadband by phasing out support for phones, and outright eliminating support for pagers and other non-broadband services that don’t directly benefit students and library patrons.
On a Related Note…