FCC dedicates $2B to equip schools, libraries with Wi-Fi

The FCC is allocating $2 billion over the next two years to equip more schools and libraries with Wi-Fi connections to enable students to take advantage of new educational tools like tablets and digital textbooks.

This Wi-Fi drive is part of the regulator's broader reorganization of the E-Rate program, which provides funding for communications services at schools and libraries. Under the plan, the regulator plans to allocate $1 billion in both 2015 and 2016 to connect what it says is an additional 10 million students to Wi-Fi service.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that he is circulating his E-Rate Modernization Order to be discussed at the commission's July meeting.

"New technologies like tablets and digital textbooks are providing great new opportunities for individualized learning and research," wrote Wheeler in a blog post Friday. "Effective use of this technology requires individual connections in schools and libraries to personal devices, and Wi-Fi is the most cost-effective way to provide connectivity."

Wheeler added that most schools in the United States don't have adequate Wi-Fi network access.

"Today, three out of five schools in America lack sufficient Wi-Fi capability needed to provide students with 21st Century educational tools," Wheeler wrote. "As currently structured, E-Rate in past years has only been able to support Wi-Fi in 5% of schools and 1% of libraries. Last year, no money was available for Wi-Fi."

Besides allocating funds to accelerate broadband deployments in the classroom, the new plan aims to crack down on abuse by creating processes to reduce prices and increase transparency on how money is spent.  

For more:
- see this blog post
- The Wall Street Journal has this article (reg. req.)

Related articles:
FCC to rework existing net neutrality rules, won't appeal Verizon ruling
FCC's E-Rate program dedicates $450M to support broadband in schools, libraries
FCC dedicates $2B to bring broadband to schools, libraries
FCC commissioner pushes 1-Gig broadband speeds for schools