The FCC is trying to decide whether, and how, to extend e-Rate discounts to wireless service for off-campus use.

Government officials are handing out $9 million for projects that will help schools extend wireless internet connections beyond the classroom.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on March 9 announced 20 pilot projects that will receive federal e-Rate funding to pay for wireless broadband connections for laptops, smart phones, and other mobile devices, which students will be able to take with them after the school day ends.

The program is intended to give students—including those from low-income families who might have no other internet service at home—access to homework assignments, study guides, digital textbooks, and other educational resources outside of regular school hours.

Called Learning On-the-Go, the program will reach nearly 35,000 students across 14 states in the 2011-12 school year, FCC officials said. It will be paid for through the government’s e-Rate program, which funds internet access in schools and libraries but until now has never been used to pay for off-campus connections.

For more on mobile learning, see:

Mobile learning: Not just laptops any more

Kineo: Like an iPad, but made for students

New devices allow for mobile wireless broadband

The e-Rate is one of four programs that make up the Universal Service Fund, the federal program that subsidizes telephone service in poor and rural areas through fees collected from long-distance carriers. These carriers subsequently pass along a surcharge on their customers’ long-distance phone bills.

The projects that will be funded include programs that will pay for laptop connections for elementary and secondary school students in New Orleans, wireless cards for high school boys from low-income households in Philadelphia, and smart-phone access for students with Attention Deficit Disorder or Asperger’s syndrome in Canton, Ohio.