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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Who What When Where WiFi How

Have you heard the rumor going around?  Some in the E-Rate community are advising applicants to apply for Priority Two funding for WiFi for FY 2014-2015, because the President and the FCC Chairman have said they want to make that the focus of the E-Rate program.  I'm not buying it, because the Chairman was pretty clear that they aren't going to make rule changes until the summer.  And while the Chairman did say he was doubling broadband funding, it seems pretty clear that the only "increase" in funding will be the normal rollover.  And if they roll $1 billion into FY 2014-2015, that will probably just about cover Priority One demand.  So I think it's much ado about nothing.

But while I was rereading the Chairman's speech, I noticed an interesting change.  While earlier statements had talked about "wireless broadband," the latest speech refers to funding "WiFi."  That's very good news.

Back when Sen. Rockefeller started all this E-Rate 2.0 talk, I fretted that cell phone companies were going to try to turn the emphasis on wireless Internet to their advantage.  Then the former chief lobbyist for cell phone companies was nominated for FCC Chairman.  And right after President Obama's speech, at least one cell phone provider tried to turn ConnectED into a cell-phone data plan initiative.  I was starting to worry that E-Rate funds would be squandered on inefficiently giving every student a mobile Internet access account, instead of using internal wireless LANs.

The Chairman seems to have put a fork in that.  Let's just hope that it stays clear that the emphasis will be on funding WiFi.

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