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FCC Will Seek Distance-Learning Dollars from Hill

The FCC was looking for money from Congress for remote education in the COVID-19 aid bill that passed last weekend, but didn't get it. An FCC official signaled on background Monday (March 30) that it is not giving up. 

Senate Democrats had also wanted at least $2 billion for e-rate in the aid bill.

The FCC official said to look for the commission to renew the funding pitch for the next round of COVID-19 aid that is almost surely coming. He also cited the efforts ISPs are taking on their own dime, including offering free service to low-income residents with school age children currently lacking home broadband.

The FCC has already taken some steps to try and help broadband providers boost their remote education efforts through the FCC's schools and libraries e-rate broadband subsidy. That includes allowing schools and libraries that are closed to still get the funding--so they can open up their WiFi networks to the public during the coronavirus pandemic without losing e-rate funding.  

The FCC has also temporarily waived rules that prohibited e-rate-eligible entities from accepting or seeking anything of value from a provider participating in the program. With those rules waived, carriers can donate free upgraded gear or WiFi hotspots.