In a 3-2 vote, the FCC moved forward with a plan to simplify and reform E-Rate, a program introduced in 1996 to help fund discounts on information technology for schools and libraries, into a program that will deliver 75 percent more WiFi funding for rural schools and 60 percent for urban ones, according to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.
"No responsible business would stick with an IT plan developed in 1998," he said. "We owe the same rigorous self-examination to our schools and libraries."
The plan also streamlines the program, eliminating a previous requirement that E-Rate funds be spent first on broadband services before being applied to WiFi connections.
Though the push coincides with the Obama administration's ConnectED program, which aims to put 100 Mbps connections in all schools by 2017, education groups are debating its benefits. The National Education Association fears its size-based policy will harm rural schools, while the State Educational Technology Directors Association and the American Library Association have praised the funding.