The FCC recently announced that it intends to commit $1 billion in 2015 to help bring in-school Wi-Fi to 10 million students who currently lack the technology. Today, the agency announced a partnership with the U.S. General Services Administration that will allow participating schools to secure better rates on the hardware they need to install WiFi than they could on their own.
The partnership will “allow schools and libraries to utilize the GSA’s reverse auction platform to seek bids from equipment vendors at prices even better than those already available under the relevant GSA schedule,” according to the FCC. That’s somewhat dense, but it means that schools can likely lower their installation costs, which could mean broader, and perhaps quicker adoption of Wi-Fi in American schools.
I’ve asked the FCC if potentially lower per-school installation costs could increase the total number of students impacted in 2015.
How big is the issue? According to the FCC, almost 60 percent of American schools “lack sufficient Wi-Fi.” And, of course, some of this country’s learning institutions have no Wi-Fi whatsoever. Last year, no FCC money was apportioned to provide more WiFi in schools.
A few basic thoughts: More, faster, and better varied Internet access is good for our students, because they are entering into an increasingly digital-first world in which proficiency with computing products of every shape and size is a competitive advantage. And not just inside our own job market — the better trained our larger workforce is, the more competitive our country will be on the global stage.
Every student in our country should have access to modern technology products, fast Internet connections, and all the software they can consume in pursuit of both self-directed and guided learning. We should be moving even more quickly than we are, though the FCC’s recent moves are certainly pointed in the right direction.
Update: My hunch proved correct. Given the GSA partnership, the FCC expects more students to be impacted in 2015, though it isn’t sure how many.