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More School Buses Could Get Wi-Fi

May 13, 2022 by Madeline Hughes
More School Buses Could Get Wi-Fi
Students catch their bus on Sept. 7, 2021. (Andrew Rush /Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

WASHINGTON — Adding Wi-Fi to school buses could be easier for school districts because of a proposed rule change by the Federal Communications Commission.

The new rule, if adopted, would allow districts to apply for funding to connect school buses to wireless internet through the E-Rate program, according to a statement from the FCC. Intended to “close the homework gap” by providing broadband access to school children, the multi-billion dollar program has already provided equipment.

“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,” said Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a statement. “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.”

Some school districts like Shenandoah County Public Schools in Virginia received funds from the commission’s Emergency Connectivity Fund to place wireless internet on the district’s buses. In total the commission has given more than $35 million in funding to districts to equip their buses with broadband services through that emergency program, according to the release.

This rule change would allow easier access for districts to apply for these funds through the standing E-Rate program that had $4.276 billion to give out in 2021. 

Hernando County schools in Florida similarly used pandemic emergency funds through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund to implement wireless internet on its buses, according to a statement.

“Although we never hope to experience school closure again, during that period, it became clear that quite a few of our students didn’t have the same access to digital learning options from home,” Joe Amato, director of Technology Information Services for the district, wrote. “Hopefully, Wi-Fi on buses will help, and make student travel time a little more productive.”

Madeline can be reached at maddie@thewellnews.com and @MadelineHughes

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