The FCC’s extensive eRate overhaul includes a new type of eligible service, managed Wi-Fi, which could lead to more outsourced networks in K-12 schools
[Editor’s note: This is the second in a series of articles examining the new eRate rules and how they will affect schools.]
On page 49 of its “Seventh Report and Order,” a 176-page document that rewrites the rules governing the $2.4 billion-a-year eRate, the Federal Communications Commission refers to a new category of service that is eligible for eRate support: managed Wi-Fi, or “managed internal broadband services” as the agency refers to it.
Before, schools could apply for eRate discounts only on the purchase of routers, switches, wireless access points, and other internal connections, or on the basic maintenance of this equipment. Now, the FCC’s new rules allow schools to enter into contracts that call for Wi-Fi providers to install and manage this equipment—and this full-service approach to wireless service would be eRate-eligible.
This change “will allow schools, for the first time, to leverage eRate discounts to outsource major aspects of delivering on-campus broadband connectivity,” said John Harrington, chief executive officer of the eRate consulting firm Funds For Learning. “This is analogous to a school cafeteria considering bids to manage their kitchen and serve students meals.”
These types of agreements “could lead to improved network performance,” Harrington added.
(Next page: More details about managed Wi-Fi’s eligibility—and one state’s experience with the service)