FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel has proposed that federal funding be provided to equip school buses with Wi-Fi, potentially closing the homework gap by that much more. I don’t know if any kids are going to do any work at 7:20 in the morning or right after the last bell has rung, but it certainly can’t hurt.
The proposal would allow the use of E-rate program funds, generally set aside for school tech and connectivity costs, to be used for purchasing wireless hot spots or other methods for getting the buses connected.
“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 common sense change could help kids who have no broadband at home,” said Rosenworcel in a statement announcing the proposed ruling.
$35 million has already been spent on this through the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, and the declaratory ruling (as the proposal is formally called at this point) found that the costs would more than justify the benefits.
Though it’s easy to think of scenarios like a kid uploading their homework on the bus as silly or typical of teenage procrastination, connectivity is a serious problem around the country. And some kids have pretty long bus rides! If Wi-Fi at home is cutting out, and you can’t access the school servers on mobile, what are you supposed to do, stop by the library on the way to homeroom?
Being able to polish off that essay and upload it from the bus (after a bit of feedback from their seatmate, of course), or skimming through that lecture one more time before the test, could be actually helpful. Once they have it, they’re going to rely on it.
It makes sense these days much more than even five years ago because mobile networks and integrations for things like cars and buses are far cheaper and more standard. If they can put Wi-Fi on subway trains, or on company shuttles, we can put them on our big orange buses. And you know we might even get a little WAN party going.