Children across America could soon be turning in essays on the way to school or getting an early start on their homework on the way home using their Chromebooks (opens in new tab) as FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel (opens in new tab) has proposed adding Wi-Fi to school buses.
During a recent meeting of the National Coalition for Technology in Education & Training, Rosenworcel announced a proposal to allow for federal funding to be used to add Wi-Fi to the country’s school buses.
If adopted, the Declaratory Ruling would allow E-Rate program funding to be used to equip school buses with Wi-Fi providing substantial benefits to students.
Adding Wi-Fi to school buses isn’t that far-fetched of an idea as public buses across the country already feature Wi-Fi. While some students have their own smartphones (opens in new tab) and use them to get online on the way to and from school, Rosenworcel’s proposal would make it possible for all students to connect to the internet during their commute without eating up their parents’ data plans.
Closing the homework gap
While most of us are familiar with the skills shortage (opens in new tab) currently affecting the job market, the so-called 'homework gap' refers to barriers students face when trying to complete assignments without a reliable internet connection at home.
Although the Biden administration’s Affordable Connectivity Program (opens in new tab) will make it easier and cheaper for low-income Americans to get access to high-speed broadband, Rosenworcel’s proposal will ensure students will be able to get online regardless of their internet situation at home.
> Why back to school shouldn’t mean a return to poor connectivity (opens in new tab)
> Kids won’t stop launching DDoS attacks against their schools (opens in new tab)
> Smart cities might mean you never miss a bus again (opens in new tab)
In a press release (opens in new tab) announcing her new proposal, Rosenworcel provided further details on how the E-rate program will be used to equip the nation’s school buses with mobile hotspots (opens in new tab), saying:
“While we’ve made progress getting many more families connected through our various broadband funding programs, the Homework Gap is still a hard fact of life for millions of schoolchildren in urban and rural America. Wiring our school buses is a practical step we can take that is consistent with the history of the E-rate program. This commonsense change could help kids who have no broadband at home. I look forward to having my colleagues join me in approving this step to support the online educational needs of our nation’s schoolchildren.”
At the same time, funding for Wi-Fi on school buses is already covered under the Emergency Connectivity Fund (opens in new tab) program that Congress mandated as part of its pandemic relief measures. As such, the program will have the necessary funds once it gets approved regardless if they come from the E-rate or Emergency Connectivity Fund program.