The FCC wants school buses to get Wi-Fi

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Kids across America could soon turn in essays on the way to school or start homework early on the way home using their Chromebooks, as FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed adding the Wi-Fi at school buses.

At a recent meeting of the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training, Rosenworcel announced a proposal to enable the use of federal funding to add Wi-Fi to school buses nationwide.

If passed, the declaratory ruling would allow funding from the E-Rate program to be used to equip school buses with a Wi-Fi network offering substantial benefits to students.

Adding Wi-Fi to school buses isn’t a far-fetched idea, as public buses across the country already have Wi-Fi. While some students have their own smartphones and use them to log onto the way to school, Rosenworcel’s proposal would allow all students to connect to the internet during their commute without consuming their parents’ data plans.

Closing the Homework Gap

While most of us are familiar with the skills shortage currently affecting the job market, the so-called “homework gap” refers to the obstacles students face when trying to complete their homework without reliable internet connection at home.

While the Biden administration’s Affordable Connectivity program will make it easier and cheaper for low-income Americans to access broadband, Rosenworcel’s proposal will ensure that students can connect regardless of their internet status to the home.

In a press release announcing its new proposal, Rosenworcel provided more details on how the E-rate program will be used to equip school buses nationwide with mobile hotspots, saying:

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“While we have made progress in connecting many more families through our various broadband funding programs, the Homework Gap is still a stark reality for millions of school children in urban and rural America. The wiring of our buses is a practical step we can take that is consistent with the history of the E-rate program. This change in common sense could help children who do not have broadband at home. I look forward to my colleagues join me in endorsing this step to meet the online educational needs of school children across our nation.”

At the same time, funding for Wi-Fi on school buses is already covered by the Emergency Connectivity Fund program that Congress has mandated as part of its pandemic relief measures. As such, the program will have the necessary funds once approved, whether from the E-rate program or the Emergency Connectivity Fund.

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