Private Wireless Networks

Ed Tech
  Friday, December 11, 2020

There is a significant move afoot for school districts to establish private wireless networks in order to solve the at-home connectivity problem for their students. We all want the problem solved, however, the approach to funding the effort needs to be carefully considered. School districts are accustomed to having the federal E-rate program subsidize their telecommunications expenses. It might seem natural to apply the same idea of covering “net costs” for these efforts from district sources as opposed to affording the gross costs. The caution that all decision-makers in school districts consider such an initiative is that E-rate continues to limit eligible expenses to on-campus traffic. For the traffic coming into the school network from off-campus sources, the associated costs need to be removed from the amount being requested from the Universal Service Administrative Corporation (USAC). Likewise, core expenses for the build-out to provide off-campus connectivity are not eligible for E-rate support. In addition, the FCC believes it cannot alter the eligibility unless Congress takes action to change the E-rate program.