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Funding Wi-Fi on School Buses Will Help Enable Students to Learn Without Limits

WASHINGTON, October 19, 2023—The Federal Communications Commission today announced that it will allow E-Rate funding to be used for Wi-Fi on school buses beginning in funding year 2024 as the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) program is set to sunset. The ECF program has provided unprecedented resources to help students get and stay connected for online learning, with hundreds of school districts using this support to equip school buses with Wi-Fi connections. Today’s action enhances the benefits and the reach of the E-Rate program to ensure that the millions of students caught in the Homework Gap can more fully engage in their learning.

The E-Rate program was authorized by Congress as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and created by the Commission in 1997 to enhance access to advanced telecommunications and information services for all public and nonprofit elementary and secondary school classrooms and libraries.

Today’s action clarifies that the use of Wi-Fi, or other similar access point technologies, on school buses serves an educational purpose and the provision of such service is therefore eligible for E-Rate funding. The Commission has previously found that the off-campus use of certain services is integral to the education of students and has permitted funding of such services through E-Rate. This ruling also directs the Wireline Competition Bureau to fund Wi-Fi on school buses, as well as any E-Rate-eligible equipment needed to enable the service, as part of funding year 2024 eligible services list proceeding and seek comment on the specific services and equipment that should be funded.

Action by the Commission October 19, 2023 by Declaratory Ruling (FCC 23-84). Chairwoman Rosenworcel, Commissioners Starks and Gomez approving. Commissioners Carr and Simington dissenting. Chairwoman Rosenworcel, Commissioners Carr, Starks, Simington, and Gomez issuing separate statements.

WC Docket No. 13-184

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