FCC chairwoman pushes for E-Rate funding of school bus Wi-Fi

Since the passage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the E-Rate program administered by the Federal Communications Commission has been a sore subject among some in the school bus industry for its failure to include the iconic yellow vehicles under the same umbrella for internet access as schools and libraries.

After attempts in Congress to extend the funding to school bus Wi-Fi programs failed, the day soon may be coming that the FCC acquiesces and treats the buses as true extensions of the classroom.

FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel announced on May 11 a proposal to allow E-Rate funding for school bus Wi-Fi. That came during a meeting of the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training, a non-partisan organization that examines and supports the use of technology to improve education and training in America.

The draft “declaratory ruling” directs the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau to include funding for Wi-Fi on buses in establishing services eligible for E-Rate funding for the upcoming year. The funding cap in 2021 was $4.276 billion, according to the FCC.

“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,” Rosenworcel said 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.”

Meanwhile, the application period for the third round of funding under the $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund closes Friday. So far, FCC said it has committed more than $35 million in funding through that program for the purchase of Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband services for school buses.

Reprinted with permission from School Transportation NewsRead the original post.

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