SHLB Supports FCC's Initiative for Off-Campus E-rate Support January 17, 2024
For Immediate Release
Contact: Saskya Cabral
Marketing & PR Director
SHLB Backs FCC's Initiative for Off-Campus E-Rate Support
E-Rate program support for Wi-Fi hotspots for students and library patrons will help address the homework gap beyond 2024.
Washington, D.C. (January 17, 2024) - Today, the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, a leading advocate for community anchor institutions (CAIs) in the broadband policy arena, along with the Open Technology Institute at New America (OTI), filed comments responding to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in support of E-Rate support for off-campus internet access.
The NPRM proposes to allow schools and libraries to apply for funding from the FCC’s E-Rate program for Wi-Fi hotspots and wireless internet access services to be used by students and library patrons in need. The NPRM aims to address the Homework Gap that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the increased use of online learning.
“We are excited to see the FCC move forward with this historic action to modernize the E-Rate program and enable it to support off-premises broadband for educational purposes,” said Kristen Corra, Policy Counsel at SHLB. “This will be a game-changer for students and library patrons who lack reliable and affordable internet access at home or off-campus. As we pointed out in our Petition for Rulemaking filed three years ago, the SHLB Coalition believes that the FCC has the legal authority to implement this policy change to help close the Homework Gap. We simply ask the FCC to allow schools and libraries to use whatever technology solution works best for their local market and reduce the paperwork burdens to encourage smaller schools and libraries to benefit from this program.”
“OTI applauds the FCC for proposing to expand E-Rate to connect students lacking internet access at home through Wi-Fi hotspots and other wireless broadband services, which is a logical and necessary extension of E-Rate’s mission,” said Michael Calabrese, Director at Wireless Future Project at the Open Technology Institute at New America. “We urge the FCC to adopt flexible rules that allow schools and libraries to choose the best and most cost-effective connectivity solutions for their communities, whether through commercially available providers or self-provisioned networks through the schools and libraries.”
SHLB, the Open Technology Institute, and others jointly filed a Petition for Rulemaking in January 2021, specifically calling for E-Rate funding to be used to support broadband access at home. The FCC took comment on that proposal but did not take further action after Congress created the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF). The ECF program is set to expire at the end of June 2024.
Read the comments here.
The SHLB Coalition is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) advocacy 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 commercial and non-commercial organizations from across the United States. To learn more, visit www.shlb.org.