Originally published: February 23, 2010
Last updated: November 29, 2010 - 11:34am
The Federal Communications Commission adopted an order that enables schools that receive funding from the E-rate program (more formally, the schools and libraries universal service support program) to allow members of the general public to use the schools' Internet access during non-operating hours.
This change attracted broad support in comments received while developing the National Broadband Plan. This action will leverage universal service funding to serve a larger population at no increased cost to the E-rate program. If a school chooses to allow community access, the general public will be able to use the Internet access already present in schools for purposes such as job searches and applications, digital literacy programs, and online access to governmental services and resources. Increasing community access to the Internet is particularly critical in communities where residential adoption of broadband Internet access has historically lagged, including many rural, minority, and Tribal communities. Libraries already may provide Internet access to their communities using E-rate support. The order enables schools to provide similar access to the public.
This waiver is subject to the following conditions: 1) schools participating in the E-rate program are not permitted to request more services than are necessary for "educational purposes"; 2) any community use of E-rate funded services at a school facility is limited to non-operating hours, such as after school hours or during times when the students are out of school; and 3) consistent with the Communications Act, schools may not resell discounted services or network capacity.
In addition, the Commission adopted a notice of proposed rulemaking, which seeks comment on revising the Commission's rules to make today's change permanent. The Commission also seeks comment on conditions that should be established to guard against potential additional costs being imposed on the E-rate program and to reduce the likelihood of waste, fraud, and abuse.
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