FCC proposed rulemaking permanently modifies rules for educational Wi-Fi projects
The Federal Communications Commission is looking to make it easier for Wi-Fi projects at schools and libraries to be funded under federal mechanisms.
The FCC tested out a “category two” budget approach for five years under its E-Rate program (which focuses on universal service support for educational institutions and libraries. It established five-year budgets for schools and libraries with a set amount of support internal connections — which are typically Wi-Fi networks. (Category one funding is for connectivity to schools and libraries; category two involves connections within those schools and libraries.) Under the previous rules, which limited funding for internal connections, the FCC noted that in some years — as recently as 2013 and 2014 — no Wi-Fi projects received funding. So in 2014, the new approach was first put into play.
“Our experience over the past few years suggests that these budgets have resulted in a broader distribution of funding that is more equitable and more predictable for schools and libraries,” the FCC concluded in the proposed rulemaking that would make the new budget approach permanent. “We
also see clear improvements in the way in which funding for internal connections has been administered
in the five-year period since adoption of the category two budget approach.”
A previous public comment period reflected widespread support for the five-year budget approach for internal connections.
FCC Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel, Geoffrey Starks and Michael O’Rielly issued statements indicating either full or partial support of the change. O’Rielly said that he supported the change to the extent that it did not disrupt the status quo, but expressed concerns about some elements of E-Rate that he said reflect “insufficient guardrails” to prevent USF-funded overbuilding. O’Rielly said that there is evidence that some E-Rate-funded “special construction” builds are directly competing against USF-funded fiber networks, which he said “directly [threatens]rural broadband investment and [robs]USF ratepayers of their hard-earned investments. … I am hopeful our next action with respect to E-Rate will be laser-focused on eradicating USF-funded overbuilding.”
WIA leaders appointed to broadband advisory positions
In related news, the head of the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s apprenticeship program has been appointed to the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee’s new working group on deployment-related job skills and training opportunities.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai appointed Grant Seiffert, who serves as both executive Director of TIRAP and WIA’s VP of workforce development, to the Broadband Infrastructure Deployment Job Skills and Training Opportunities working group. Rikin Thankker, who serves on WIA’s Innovation and Technology Council, was last month appointed as the new working group’s vice chair. The group is chaired by Leticia Latino, who is president and CEO of Neptuno.
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