Community Use of E-Rate-Supported Wi-Fi is Permitted During Closures

This came up on a call today and will hopefully make it even easier for libraries and schools that are closed to keep their wifi networks open  to support local residents who don’t have access at home.

The FCC reports

By this Public Notice, the Wireline Competition Bureau reminds schools and libraries that are closed due to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak that they are permitted to allow the general public to use E-Rate-supported Wi-Fi networks while on the school’s campus or library property.  Specifically, libraries may offer access to E-Rate funded services on their premises as well as services that are “integral, immediate and proximate to the provision of library services to library patrons”[1]—and because the mission to serve the public is ongoing, libraries are permitted to allow the public to access E-Rate funded services even when they are closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.  Similarly, closed schools may allow access to E-Rate funded services “to community members who access the Internet while on a school’s campus” so long as they do not charge for the use of the service.[2]  We hope

that this reminder will promote connectivity to Americans impacted by the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

We leave it to individual schools and libraries to establish their own policies regarding use of their Wi-Fi networks during closures, including hours of use.[1]  And we remind all parties that health and well-being are paramount, and to follow any applicable health and safety guidelines, including those on social distancing, as may be set out by relevant federal, state, local, and Tribal authorities.

For further information, please contact Joseph Schlingbaum, Telecommunications Access Policy Division, Wireline Competition Bureau, at (202) 418-7400 or (202) 418-0829 (TTY), or at Joseph.Schlingbaum@fcc.gov

 

[1] Cf. id., 25 FCC Rcd at 18775-76, para. 25 (finding that “the decision about whether to allow community access rests with the school, and we thus leave it schools to establish their own policies regarding specific use of their services and facilities, including, for example, the hours of use”); id. at 18776-77, para. 27 (“We emphasize that the revision of our rules [to allow community use of school’s E-Rate funded services] creates an opportunity for schools, but not an obligation.”).

[1] 47 CFR § 54.500.

[2] See Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism, Sixth Report and Order, WC Docket No. 02-6, 25 FCC Rcd 18762, 18775-76, paras. 25-26 (2010) (E-Rate Sixth Report and Order).  Additionally, schools that choose to allow the community to use their E-Rate funded services “may not request funding for more services than are necessary for educational purposes to serve their current student population.”  Id. at 18775, para. 24.

This entry was posted in Digital Divide, education, FCC, Government, Policy and tagged by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s