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Monday, March 16, 2020

A hotspot coming to you?

Some senators have asked the FCC "to temporarily allow schools to utilize E-Rate program funding to provide Wi-Fi hotspots or devices with Wi-Fi capability to students who lack internet access at home."

The senators point out that the E-Rate program is about $2 billion under cap, so why not spend it on hotspots?

I'm in favor, but I see four big problems:
  1. Agility.  I just don't see the FCC moving quickly enough to get this in place this week, which is when schools need it.
  2. Funding.  Yes, the E-Rate is $2 billion under cap.  But the FCC just set the contribution factor to meet existing demand.  A sudden increase in disbursements is going to require a sudden increase in the contribution factor. 
  3. Provisioning.  How quickly is a school district going to be able to go from zero to hotspot?  Even if the FCC waived the 470, just getting the hotspots delivered and configuring everything seems like a tall order.  And are service providers prepared to ship all those hotspots?
  4. Availability.  OK, you've configured the school's Chromebook to connect to the hotspot, and the student takes it home.  How does that hotspot get to the Internet?  A cell phone data plan?  Cost aside, not every home in the country has great cell phone service.
Still, it's worth trying.

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