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FCC: E-Rate Revamp Means WiFi Upgrades for Millions of Kids

The FCC says Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposed revamp of the E-rate subsidy for advanced telecom to schools and libraries will translate to an additional 43.6 million students in schools that, under the program, "would gain the funding needed for Wi-Fi upgrades."

Funding for WiFi will increase by 75% for rural schools and 60% in urban schools.

That came in a report Tuesday making the case for expanding WiFi funding and showing its state-by-state impact.

Wheeler two weeks ago circulated a proposal to modernize the subsidy for advanced communications services to schools and libraries, including transitioning the subsidy from traditional telecom to wireless broadband and simplifying the application process.

The revamp would "dramatically increase support for Wi-Fi connections in schools and libraries" as the FCC transitions the subsidy from traditional telecom.

The new E-rate proposal, being voted on at the July 11 public meeting, will also mean an additional 102,150 schools and 15,989 libraries getting access to WiFi upgrade funding, the FCC report said.

“Technology has changed. The needs of schools and libraries have changed. The E-Rate program must reflect these changes,” said Wheeler in a statement accompanying the report. “Modernizing E-Rate to expand Wi-Fi connectivity in schools and libraries will empower students and library patrons to use the latest education technology to access new learning opportunities and infinite worlds of information.”

The FCC has taken some criticism from education groups over the revamp, which they argue "will only dilute an already over-subscribed E-rate Program by threatening the program’s sustainability and historically successful track record and failing to meet the needs of urban, rural and low-density populated areas."

But it has also received some support from the State Educational Technology Directors Association and the Alliance for Better Education.