The FCC’s E-rate program, which funds classroom internet access is focused on wired connections. Today nearly all schools have access to the Internet, and two-thirds of American schools now have fiber connections.
But in an era where many laptops and tablets are WiFi-only, fiber connections are of little use.
FCC head Tom Wheeler says nearly 60% of schools in America lack sufficient Wi-Fi capability and many schools have no Wi-Fi at all. For those that are connected wirelessly, such networks often don’t meet the capacity needs of students and teachers.
FCC staffers estimate that they could get over 10 million students online in 2015 through the effort, which would devote both $1 billion and modernize E-rate’s broadband distribution rules.
In 2011, the FCC approved a six-year transfer process that would transition money from the Universal Service Fund High-Cost Program (for rural telephony) to a new $4.5 billion a year Connect America Fund for broadband Internet expansion, effectively putting an end to the USF High-Cost Fund by 2018.