The Washington Post reports that, "In a 3-2 vote along party lines Friday, the FCC greenlit a plan to spend $2 billion over the next two years on subsidies for internal networks. The move also begins a process to phase out some subsidies under the federal program, known as E-Rate, for services and equipment that are on the decline, such as pagers and dial-up Internet service." That sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but as usual in politics it's the result of a messy process: The original plan called for spending $5 billion on WiFi over five years, in line with a push by the Obama administration to bring next-gen broadband and WiFi to 99 percent of students over the same period. Those funds would have partly come from savings as a result of transitioning away from supporting legacy technologies. The proposal would also have eliminated an existing requirement that E-Rate funds be spent first on broadband services before being applied to WiFi. In past years, the cost of broadband service meant that money was rarely left over for upgrading WiFi connections. But the FCC's proposal was ultimately scaled back late Thursday amid Republican objections that the E-Rate program can't afford the changes. The final proposal's two-year, $2 billion commitment accounts for the money the FCC has already set aside for WiFi upgrades, but it does not commit the FCC to funding WiFi upgrades at that same rate for the following three years.
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