According to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), one in three households nationwide don’t have access to broadband, leaving close to 17 million students unable to complete homework remotely. A new Senate bill aims to change that.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is co-sponsoring legislation that would provide Wi-Fi on school buses for students nationwide to close the educational gap. The E-Rate Support for School Bus Wi-Fi Act is part of a national effort to provide wider broadband access and give all students affordable high-speed internet.
The bipartisan legislation would also expand eligibility for the FCC E-Rate program to include installing Wi-fi on school buses as an approved use of funds.
“[S]tudents in rural and tribal communities taking long bus rides to and from school need Wi-Fi during those long stretches to keep up with daily assignments and tackle homework,” said Wyden in a press release. “All students regardless of their Zip code should have solid internet access … .”
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The State Education Technology Director’s Association (SETDA) is among numerous national educational associations that support the school bus Wi-Fi bill.
“Ensuring that all students have off-campus access to broadband for learning requires a range of creative strategies,” said Julia Fallon, Executive Director of SETDA. “Wi-Fi-equipped buses are an emerging solution that meets this critical need. SETDA is pleased to endorse the E-Rate Support for School Bus Wi-Fi Act, which will empower students to continue learning during their commutes to and from home, regardless of where a student lives.”
The E-Rate Support for School Bus Wi-Fi Act includes Wyden’s $6 billion Accessible, Affordable Internet for All Act, which provides $3.2 billion for an emergency broadband benefit. Families that lost income because of layoffs or employment furloughs during the pandemic are eligible to receive $50 a month to help pay for internet service.
Companion legislation was also introduced in the House by Rep. Peter Welch of Vermont.