Another political brouhaha is fulminating in Washington around E-Rate, the federal program that funds broadband in schools and public libraries. After earmarking more E-Rate funds Wi-Fi in July, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler on Monday proposed raising the cap on funds available for general broadband by $1.5 billion. Paying for that would require a hike in federal fees applied to phone service, which Wheeler said would amount to about $1.90 a year on the average consumer’s bill. But Republicans, including FCC commissioner Ajit Pai, said it amounted to 17.2 percent tax increase and pledged to oppose it.
By revamping the E-Rate rules, the FCC is making it easier for schools to get funding for Wi-Fi networks, but overall funding levels for internet access in schools remain the same.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler wants to make it easier for schools and libraries to get federal funds for Wi-Fi networking. Meanwhile, the Senate is putting political pressure on the FCC to clear more Wi-Fi airwaves.
Tech companies from Apple to Autodesk and three of the nationwide mobile operators are contributing hardware, software and services to help fund the Presidents plan to connect 15,000 schools with broadband.