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FCC: Schools and libraries may open their Wi-Fi networks for public use during closures

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The Federal Communications Commission confirmed Monday, March 23 that schools and libraries closed due to the coronavirus pandemic may open their Wi-Fi networks for public use.

The announcement would allow schools and libraries to provide connectivity to their communities without fear of losing their E-rate funding, the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition said in a press release.

"We leave it to individual schools and libraries to establish their own policies regarding use of their Wi-Fi networks during closures, including hours of use, and we remind all parties that health and well-being are paramount and to follow any applicable health and safety guidelines, including those on social distancing, as may be set out by relevant federal, state, local, and Tribal authorities," the FCC said in a public notice.

SHLB Coalition Executive Director John Windhausen Jr. made the following statement:

Many schools and libraries have been uncertain about whether to switch off their Wi-Fi networks when the institution is closed, out of concern that they would lose part of their E-rate funding. Shutting down these Wi-Fi networks could have been disastrous for the millions of people who depend on schools or libraries as their only point of internet access. We are pleased that the FCC, in response to our request, has clarified that schools and libraries may leave their Wi-Fi networks on for community use without jeopardizing their E-rate funding. The SHLB Coalition now encourages the FCC to take the next step and grant the Petition of the Boulder Valley School District to permit schools and libraries to extend their broadband services to surrounding residential consumers.

The SHLB Coalition requested the FCC make this clarification in the letter they sent the commission last week. The letter proposed several immediate actions the commission should take to ensure those without home broadband access can obtain healthcare and educational services.

The SHLB Coalition is a nonprofit, advocacy organization that supports open, affordable, high-quality broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities, according to their website. The coalition is based in Washington, D.C. and has a diverse membership of commercial and non-commercial organizations from across the United States.

To learn more, visit

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