By: Chris Oskuie, Director – Segment Marketing, Education | Brocade
In part 1 of my blog post, I discussed how increasing competition in the E-rate program can free up additional funds that can be used to help close the homework gap, A second way to help close the homework gap, is through P3.
Leverage Public-Private Partnerships to Scale Access Outside of School
A lot has been discussed around a couple recent FCC decisions in the Lifeline program. The Lifeline program subsidizes voice purchases, and in this case broadband access to households in need. While an important program, subsidizing 5 million households gets pretty expensive (my math says $19.50 per household per month, times 5 million potential households = $1.17B annually).
Instead of a 1-to-1 subsidy, let’s consider a many-to-1 subsidy through Public-Private Partnerships (P3, 3P or PPP). This idea could expand internet access and infrastructure subsidies to community anchor institutions beyond schools and libraries.
Providing Internet access to community centers, churches, other non-profits seem like a no-brainer. Anyone willing to let students utilize their facilities after school to provide Internet access would be a great use of funds (as long as they document how the access will benefit the students in the community).
Yet still, if we think more broadly, we can cover more students through P3 Wi-Fi initiatives. Many municipalities (large and small) have plans, ideas, and desires to create a connected or smart city to improve government efficiency, public safety, and citizens’ way of life. Examples can be found with the City of San Jose, LinkNYC Project, City of Indianapolis, and smaller projects like the Town of Greenfield, CT.
These programs are tough to get off the ground without some kind of catalyst. In each of the examples, there was some sort of cooperation between multiple disparate groups with common interests about better connectivity within their city or town. Those interests vary between advertising revenue, SmartGrid development, public safety, government efficiency, etc.
The responsibility lies with school districts to reach out to these other anchor institutions in their area to implement public Wi-Fi for students use. E-rate funds can be the needed catalyst to kick off these projects, which can help close the homework gap and improve everyday life. A win for all.