U.S. Senator Tom Udall is urging the FCC to work toward the goal of bringing WiFi to all of the nation's school busses. In a statement posted to the Senator's website, Udall says he wrote a letter to the FCC urging it to extend the agency's E-rate program, which pays for internet access in schools, to provide WiFi on school buses so students "can have more time to do their homework." Udall said the idea was first suggested by a Hatch Valley High School student at a hearing on how the digital divide affecting students in rural and low-income communities.
"Broadband should help create educational opportunities for these children, not a new barrier to their success at school," Udall said in a letter to FCC boss Tom Wheeler.
One problem is that while the e-Rate program certainly has its share of success stories and has improved over the last few years, it's a program that's historicallyplagued with abuse thanks to inconsistent government oversight. Historically, the FCC hasn't done all that well at following up to ensure that money doled out to carriers and schools is actually used as intended.
Between this and the logistics and cost of installing mobile hotsposts on every bus Udall's plan simply isn't likely to every fully materialize. Still, the Senator says the idea could help shore up what he calls the "homework gap."
"According to a Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data, five million American households with school-age children do not have high-speed internet service at home," said the Senator. "While seven in 10 teachers assign homework that requires internet access, one in three households across the country do not have broadband."
That said, getting broadband into these under-served areas (which we've struggled to accomplish for decades) likely takes priority over turning the nation's school busses into rolling hotspots.