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E-rate Program Expansion for Off-Premises Wi-Fi Hotspots

On June 27, 2024, the FCC announced a tentative agenda for its open meeting on July 18. One of the key items on the agenda is a proposal to allow the E-rate Program to support off-premises use of Wi-Fi hotspots and services.

The FCC is considering a significant update to the E-rate program, which aims to bridge the digital divide for students and library patrons. The proposed changes would allow schools and libraries to use E-rate funds to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless Internet services for off-premises use. This initiative is designed to ensure that individuals with the greatest need can access essential educational resources, even outside of school and library buildings. The FCC’s proposal includes a three-year budget mechanism and various safeguards to maintain the program’s integrity.

Here are the key points from the proposal:

  • E-rate Program Modernization: The FCC proposes updating the E-rate program to allow schools and libraries to request support for Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless Internet services for off-premises use.
  • Three-Year Budget Mechanism: A three-year budget will be implemented to ensure equitable distribution of Wi-Fi hotspots and services.
  • Prioritization and Safeguards: On-premises equipment and services will be prioritized, and various safeguards will be adopted to ensure proper use and documentation.
  • Educational Purpose: The off-premises use of Wi-Fi hotspots is recognized as serving an educational purpose, enhancing access to advanced telecommunications and information services.

The full Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking can be viewed here.

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