Community Use of Wi-Fi Networks Supported by E-rate Confirmed by the FCC

  • Published: Tuesday, March 24, 2020

E-rate, more formally known as the Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries, provides discounts for telecommunication, Internet access and internal connections to eligible schools and libraries. Discounts range from 20-90 percent, based on the area’s poverty level and recipients of the funding must abide by certain guidelines.

The Schools, Health and Libraries Broadband organization (SHLB) asked the Commission to "clarify that schools and libraries can allow their Wi-Fi networks to be shared with the community without losing E-rate funding." Many schools and libraries have inquired about making their robust connections available to those in their parking lots to assist during the COVID-19 pandemic, but did not want to put funding in jeopardy.

The FCC confirmed E-rate rules permit schools and libraries to set their own policies to allow general public use of E-rate-supported Wi-Fi networks while on the school or library property during closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Read the FCC's public notice. Schools and libraries may not, however, charge a fee for that connectivity.

This confirmation will promote connectivity to Americans impacted by the disruptions caused by COVID-19. As a reminder, health and well-being are paramount. Please follow applicable health and safety guidelines including those on social distancing set by federal, state and local authorities.

Read the FCC's public notice.