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All4Ed Flash: WiFi is as Essential as Textbooks for Today’s Students

Recently, FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed expanding the E-rate program to include funds for WiFi hotspots. Traditionally focused on internet connectivity in schools and libraries, E-rate may soon address the need for internet access beyond these institutions.

The proposal responds to the imminent expiration of Federal funding for home internet access through the Emergency Connectivity Fund on June 30, 2024. By allowing E-rate to fund Wi-Fi hotspots, school districts and libraries can continue providing crucial home internet access post-pandemic.

In a letter to the FCC sent by All4Ed and several education equity and civil rights organizations, the groups said, “Home internet access is as critical to education today as traditional textbooks were two decades ago.”

Similarly, a letter to the FCC from Senator Edward Markey, Senator Chris Van Hollen, and Representative Grace Meng that was co-signed by over 60 members of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate stated: “This effort represents an important modernization of the E-Rate program and a recognition that learning now extends beyond the school and library premises.”

However, some critics question the FCC’s authority and argue against the proposal’s cost-effectiveness. FCC Commissioner Nathan Simington contends that E-Rate funding for mobile hotspots could be illegal and wasteful.

While WiFi hotspots are not a permanent solution to the Homework Gap, All4Ed supports the FCC’s proposal as a crucial step forward. The FCC is expected to vote on the proposal in the coming months.

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