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Why #EdTech Needs Wi-Fi, and How FCC Aims to Help

by AirTightTeam on Jul 2, 2014

ISTE 2014, the largest US education technology conference, closed July 1 - good-bye, Atlanta! The time frame coincided with new developments around FCC's proposal to close the E-rate's "Wi-Fi gap"; we cover these below.

As always happen with these large events, not everyone can go. But educators are a creative bunch. Rather than feeling left behind, they organized a parallel #NotAtISTE14 conference - complete with presentations, virtual badges and ribbons, Google+ community and hangouts, Twitter chats, karaoke (!), challenges and prizes. (Links and resources pertaining to a #NotAt... conference are at the end of the post).

We reached out to the community with a contest asking why they needed Wi-Fi for education technology initiatives.

A summary of the tweets are below, with responses ranging from robotics and iPad carts, to working with special ed kids and spurring creativity in students.



Wi-Fi is great, right? But according to the FCC, 60 percent of schools in America lack sufficient Wi-Fi to provide their students and teachers with modern educational tools, and many schools simply have no Wi-Fi at all.

EdTech Might Get Its Wi-Fi Wish, Courtesy of FCC

Just yesterday (July 1), the FCC released a report Modernizing E-Rate: Providing 21st Century Wi-Fi Networks For Schools and Libraries across America (pdf), which provides a state-by-state breakdown of the estimated number of additional students, schools, and libraries that would gain the funding needed for Wi-Fi.

The report touts Wi-Fi as:

" essential ingredient for unlocking the potential of digital learning. Wireless connectivity fundamentally changes the classroom from one that is static and restrictive to one that is dynamic and expansive. As the President said a year ago in announcing the ConnectED initiative, “[i]n a Nation where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, why shouldn’t we have it in our schools?”"

The FCC currently breaks the E-rate funding into two tiers:

  • the funding is first allocated for telecom services that connect schools and libraries to the internet (Priority 1)
  • then for "internal connections" (Priority 2), where Wi-Fi finds itself

According to the current FCC rules, funding for Priority 2 is only available after all Priority 1 requests are funded.

In 2012, the last year internal connections funding was available, less than 5% of schools and just 1% of libraries nationwide received any support. In Funding Year 2013, no funding was available for Priority 2 requests, according to the FCC.

Closing E-rate's Wi-Fi Funding Gap

The new proposal aims to "close the Wi-Fi gap" by freeing up $2 billion of new funding over the next two years that would be invested in Wi-Fi upgrades. Funding will come from two sources:

  • $1.2 billion from phasing down support for non-broadband services, like pagers {seriously, people still use those?}, email and, over a multi-year period, voice service.
  • The remainder from driving significant cost savings for broadband services by making prices more transparent and using bulk purchasing.

Source: July 1 FCC reportThe proposal, which will be voted on July 11, translates to an additional 43.6 million students in schools that would gain the funding needed for Wi-Fi upgrades. Funding for WiFi will increase by 75% for rural schools and 60% in urban schools, according to the report.

Additional resources:

#NotAtISTE14: Conference Like No Other

Are you curious about what's involved in a #NotAt... unconference?

Tonotatiste-badge the right is a sample virtual badge from #NotAtISTE14.

Get ready for #NotAtISTE15!

For more information:

Topics: Education