SHLB Backs FCC’s Plan for Off-Campus Wi-Fi November 09, 2023
For Immediate Release
Contact: Kristen Corra
SHLB Backs FCC’s Plan for Off-Campus Wi-Fi
Washington, D.C. (November 9, 2023) - The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, a leading advocate for broadband to community anchor institutions and their communities, today expressed its support for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to allow E-rate funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless internet access services for off-campus use by students and library patrons.
The NPRM, released on November 8, 2023, proposes to update the E-rate program to meet the educational needs of students and library patrons who rely on remote learning and virtual library services, especially in light of the lessons learned from the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program.
The ECF program, established by Congress in 2021, provided $7.17 billion to help schools and libraries purchase laptops, tablets, Wi-Fi hotspots, modems, routers, and broadband connections for off-campus use by students, school staff, and library patrons during the COVID-19 pandemic. The ECF program is set to expire on June 30, 2024, leaving a potential gap in connectivity for those who depend on these devices and services for remote education, health, and work.
“The SHLB Coalition is very pleased with the FCC’s proposal, as it would allow the many students and individuals lacking adequate internet access at home to continue to engage in remote learning. We agree with the statements of Chairwoman Rosenworcel and Commissioner Starks that the FCC should use every tool available to solve the digital divide," said Kristen Corra, policy counsel of the SHLB Coalition. "We simply ask the FCC to allow schools and libraries to pick the best solutions for their needs, regardless of the technology. For instance, some schools and libraries are deploying their own networks using unlicensed or shared spectrum to deliver service functionally equivalent to traditional mobile services. These anchor-enabled networks can greatly improve Wi-Fi hotspot service, especially where mobile coverage is too weak to support indoor learning. A study authored by Dr. Raul Katz last year also showed that these anchor-enabled networks can be significantly more cost-effective than traditional services.”
The SHLB Coalition and several others filed a Petition for Rulemaking in January 2021, asking the FCC to extend E-rate funding to cover off-campus broadband to the home. The NPRM frequently cites this Petition in support of this proposal. SHLB plans to file comments in response to the NPRM, which has a 30-day comment period and a 15-day reply comment period. The SHLB Coalition invites its members and partners to join its efforts to advocate for E-rate funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and other functionally equivalent off-campus connectivity solutions.
The SHLB Coalition is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) public interest organization that supports open, affordable, high-quality broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities. The SHLB Coalition is based in Washington, D.C. and has a diverse membership of non-commercial and commercial organizations from across the United States. To learn more, visit www.shlb.org.