Funding from programs like the FCC’s E-Rate can be a crucial factor in connecting schools lacking resources, especially in rural areas. As The Hechinger Report also notes, the communities these schools are located in often already face uphill battles with getting things like fiberoptic lines installed to begin with, as an internet service provider won’t get as much return-on-investment on running 10 miles of fiber for a rural customer base as they would in a city, such as San Francisco.

One would expect that the FCC under Pai would make connecting schools in these communities a higher priority for E-Rate, given the chairman’s past comments and his concerns about the efficiency of the application process. He’s criticized the agency’s December 2014 E-Rate modernization changes as “financially irresponsible” and not doing enough to help rural schools, and has also told Congress that he has long believed “E-rate is a program worth fighting for.” But there was also some concern raised following his appointment to head the agency when a report highlighting the program’s success was reportedly withdrawn.

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