Wireless/Other Off-Campus Internet Resources

March 23, 2020

Dear E-rate Family,

I realize wireless connectivity is one of the biggest issues you’re facing right now and so I’ve compiled a list of resources that may be helpful.  This list will be posted at http://www.e-ratepa.org under the new COVID-19 tab, along with other related pandemic messages that touch on E-rate and connectivity.  If you discover any offers that are not listed below, please let me know so I can add them to the page.  (Of course, I’m not endorsing these companies.)

Aircards/Jetpacks:  I do not know of any wireless providers that are currently offering free devices/service.  The FCC and Congress are currently considering measures that may provide funding for such connectivity and how those funds would be administered.  Stay tuned.

• T-Mobile has announced that current T-Mobile wireless customers who have cell-phone plans with data will be granted unlimited smartphone data for the next 60 days.  They’ll also receive an additional 20GB of mobile hot spot/tethering service for those two months.  In addition, T-Mobile is increasing the data allowance for free to their schools and students using their EmpowerED digital learning programs to ensure each participant has access to at least 20GB of data per month for the next 60 days.

Free Increased Bandwidth for Schools/Libraries:  Zito Media is offering to their existing education, library and healthcare customers increased Internet bandwidth, free of charge, if it is needed due to the pandemic.

Free Community Wi-Fi Hot-Spots:  The FCC has asked the nation’s telecommunications companies to take the https://www.fcc.gov/keep-americans-connected, which includes a commitment that vendors make their community Wi-Fi Hotspots open and free to all.  These are the ones I could find; please let me know if there are others, particularly small PA providers:

National Free Wi-Fi Map - https://www.wifimap.io/.  Many of these locations are restaurants that are now closed, but their parking lots may continue to have active service.

Library Parking Lot Wi-Fi:  The American Library Association has asked every library in the country to keep their Wi-Fi open during the shutdown so patrons can access it from their parking lots.  I know of at least one PA library that is allowing/encouraging the community to use their free Wi-Fi in the library parking lot, in the safety of their cars (see wonderful picture at http://e-ratepa.org/?page_id=32310).  As long as the Internet doesn’t extend beyond the school or library’s property boundary, I don’t think there are any E-rate rules that would prohibit it.  In fact, it’s a fantastic idea.  If you know of any schools or libraries that are making their Wi-Fi available to the public from their parking lots, please let me know (and share a picture if you can).

Low-Cost Home Internet:  Several companies have low-cost, home-based Internet for low-income households.

  • Comcast/Xfinity – Comcast will offer new residential, low-income customers its $9.95-per-month Internet Essentials program free for 60 days. The company is also boosting the internet service speeds in this program from 15/2 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps, which qualifies the service as high-speed broadband under FCC guidelines.  Comcast will also suspend data caps for 60 days.  https://internetessentials.com/
  • Zito Media – Zito Media will provide its 20 Mbps Internet Service free of charge for two months to low income residents.
  • AT&T – AT&T’s Access program provides $10/month home-based Internet to limited income households.  Also offering two months of free service to new Access customers who order by April 30, 2020 ($10/mo thereafter) and waiving all home internet data overage fees.   https://digitalyou.att.com/low-cost-internet/
  • Charter Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable) – Charter will offer free Spectrum broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 and/or college students who do not already have a Spectrum broadband subscription at any service level up to 100 Mbps. To enroll call 1-844-488-8395. Installation fees will be waived for new student households.
  • CenturyLink:   CenturyLink is suspending data usage limits for consumer customers during this time period due to COVID-19.

Federal Lifeline Program:  Lifeline is one of the four federal Universal Service programs (E-rate is also one) that lowers the monthly cost of phone or internet for low-income households.  Eligible customers can receive up to $9.25 toward their bill.  https://www.lifelinesupport.org/.

Grant/Funding Opportunities:  The following are initiatives that can help with student-home connectivity, but likely not for the next few weeks.

Stay healthy, my E-rate family, and please let me know how I can help you during this time.

– Julie

Julie Tritt Schell
Pennsylvania E-rate Coordinator
717-730-7133 – o


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