HomeTechnologyWebinar Addresses School Bus Wi-Fi Myths, E-Rate Funding

Webinar Addresses School Bus Wi-Fi Myths, E-Rate Funding

A panel of experts from Kajeet and Cradlepoint led a webinar debunking five common misconceptions surrounding school bus Wi-Fi.

Founded in 2003 and in the school bus connectivity space since 2015, Kajeet has installed school bus Wi-Fi systems for over 500 school districts across the U.S.

“Connectivity is everywhere in the K-12 space, as it is with almost every industry,” said Zack Kowalski, Kajeet’s chief revenue officer. Current connectivity options to facilitate student homework, he said, include hotspots installed on a school bus or for the student’s home, connected Chromebook devices, mobile trailers for remote locations, and private 5G networks.

“We know this market very well,” confirmed Ben Moebes, southeast director of public sector sales for Cradlepoint, a Kajeet hardware partner that provided nearly 90 percent of the school bus Wi-Fi solutions procured via the federal Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) Program. 

Moebes shared that Cradlepoint provides durable, rugged hardware compatible with many cellular networks. Kowalski added that devices installed in 2015 are still operational today.

Top 5 School Bus Wi-Fi Myths Debunked

1. Our students are going to spend most of their time on TikTok/social media sites and other non-educational resources.

Kowalski reviewed the need for stricter filtering to ensure students are only using their connected devices for school-related activities on approved sites, especially on a school bus where there is less supervision than in a classroom. The limited data should also not be used by devices to run updates in the background or stream music, which may be acceptable use cases if students are doing homework in a classroom or home setting.

Kajeet’s Sentinel portal enables students to access permitted, school-approved online content and allows administrators to track how students use devices. Kowalski showed examples from Farmington Municipal School District in New Mexico. School district websites and educational sites are the top hits and social media sites are successfully blocked.

2. I lease my buses, so I can’t physically install school bus Wi-Fi equipment.

The Federal Communications Commission released the 2024 Eligible Services List in December, which allows E-Rate funds to be used to install Wi-Fi hotspots on school buses owned, leased, or contracted by a school district.

“Leased buses are eligible and the school district customer, even though they don’t own the bus, would be the one to apply for that [funding],” Kowalski confirmed.

Districts that use transportation contractors can also take advantage of portable onboard Wi-Fi solutions, he noted.


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3. There are some areas of my district that work better on different cellular carriers than others, so no single cellular solution could provide district-wide connectivity.

Kajeet works with all large U.S. carriers including Verizon, T-Mobile, AT&T, and more, Kowalski said. “If there’s a network there, we have the hardware, the correct SIM card, and the right contracts in place to take advantage of it,” he said.

Kajeet works with districts to determine the devices and networks that work for them depending on their locations and in which geographic areas the buses run.

Kowalski explained how Kajeet’s smartSIM allows devices to intelligently switch between networks and how Kajeet’s DualConnect SmartBus solution for rural districts can switch between network carriers depending on what the best connection is in the area the bus is currently traveling through. Kajeet can also assist districts with the Kajeet SmartBus solution using Cradlepoint hardware to switch carriers if one becomes a better option in their area.

“Whatever the network [is] in your area, we can support it,” Moebes added.

4. I can’t afford to implement a school bus Wi-Fi solution.

Under the Eligible Services List (ESL), school bus Wi-Fi equipment, accessories, routers, devices, installation and service are classified as Category One E-Rate funding eligible equipment and services. Maintenance and operations services are currently ineligible for funding as are consulting services not related to installation and configuration of eligible components.

The application windows for the two forms required to apply for E-rate funding are currently open. The application filing window for Form 470, Description of Services Requested and Certification Form, closes on Feb. 28. The filing window for Form 471, Description of Services Ordered and Certification Form, closes on March 27.

5. School bus Wi-Fi will create too much additional work for my transportation and/or IT departments to manage.

Implementation of school bus Wi-Fi requires significant involvement from both the transportation and technology departments at a school district, Kowalski acknowledged.

“Our goal is to provide a solution that is turnkey, ready to use, ready to operate, and purposefully built,” he declared. “It is a platform built for managing connected school buses.”

Kowalski confirmed that Kajeet solutions are ready to plug and play right out of the box. Settings can be preconfigured to turn Wi-Fi on and off as school administrators desire. Data is readily available on the back end for district staff to monitor Wi-Fi usage trends for continued optimization or reporting to district administration.

Moebes added that the Kajeet team will work with districts during installation with consideration toward minimal aesthetic disruption, anti-vandalization efforts and coexisting with other connections such as for bus camera systems.


Related: (Recorded Webinar) How to Fund & Implement School Bus WiFi
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Related: (Recorded Webinar) Benefits of School Bus WiFi & How to Fund It



Further Interest

In answer to an attendee question, Kowalski said 60 to 120 device connections are generally available per school bus hotspot but added that Kajeet has yet to see the technology have a limiting factor.

He also noted that Kajeet project managers work with districts so buses are not out of circulation for too long while Wi-Fi systems are being installed.

The topic of E-Rate funding for school bus Wi-Fi will take center stage at STN EXPO Reno on July 16 with a keynote address from Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, the premier nonprofit professional association organization that serves as the voice of K-12 Ed Tech leaders in North America.

STN EXPO Reno registration opens Jan. 24 at stnexpo.com/west.

Watch the webinar on demand.

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