SHLB Commends FCC for Supporting Wi-Fi on School Buses October 19, 2023
For Immediate Release
Contact: Saskya Cabral
Marketing and PR Director
SHLB Commends FCC for Supporting Wi-Fi on School Buses
SHLB Coalition Celebrates FCC’s Ruling as a Milestone of its Advocacy Efforts since 2017
Washington, D.C. (October 19, 2023) - The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition applauds the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for adopting a declaratory ruling today that clarifies that the use of Wi-Fi on school buses is an educational purpose and the provision of such service is therefore eligible for E-Rate funding.
“This ruling is a win for students, especially those in rural areas who face long bus rides and limited broadband access at home,” said John Windhausen Jr., Executive Director at SHLB. “Wi-Fi on school buses will enable students to use their travel time productively and complete their homework assignments online. This will help close the homework gap and improve educational outcomes for millions of students across the country. Today’s decision is a natural companion to its decision years ago to provide E-rate support for library bookmobiles.”
“The SHLB Coalition is also pleased that the ruling adopts a technology-neutral approach, clarifying that the provision of Wi-Fi, or other similar access point technologies, on school buses is E-rate eligible,” said Kristen Corra, Policy Counsel at SHLB. “We look forward to working with the FCC on the expedited notice and comment period to establish the details of this program before the next round of E-rate funding.”
The ruling is welcomed by several school districts in New Mexico and Virginia that have already implemented or plan to implement Wi-Fi on school buses to provide their students with more opportunities for learning and engagement. These districts include Santa Fe Public Schools (NM), Shenandoah County Public Schools (VA), Gadsden Independent School District (NM), Central Consolidated School District (NM), and Socorro Consolidated Schools (NM). They shared their experiences and perspectives on the benefits of Wi-Fi on school buses for their students and communities.
“Santa Fe Public Schools (SFPS) has implemented school bus Wi-Fi on every bus, extending access to the learning environment for all SFPS bus riders. There is not a single solution in ensuring students have sufficient connectivity, and school bus Wi-Fi is an essential piece of the solution for Santa Fe students,” said Neal Weaver, Chief Information and Strategy Officer at Santa Fe Public Schools.
“Shenandoah County Public Schools is thrilled about the FCC's announcement that e-rate funding will be available for Wi-Fi on buses. This is a game-changer for our students, especially those with long bus rides and student-athletes who spend a lot of time on the bus,” said Doug Culler, Director of Network Services at Shenandoah County Public Schools. "With Wi-Fi on buses, students will be able to use their bus time to work on homework, complete assignments, and stay connected with their classmates and teachers. This is a major step forward in our efforts to ensure that all students have access to the resources they need to succeed.”
"Gadsden ISD recognizes the importance of providing Wi-Fi on school buses within our 1400-square-mile district, encompassing 11 communities," said Sam Snoddy, Director of Technology at Gadsden Independent School District. "With many students spending significant time commuting to and from school daily, this service is pivotal in transforming their bus rides into productive and educational periods. It is our commitment to ensuring equitable access to educational resources and enhancing the overall learning experience for our students and E-rate eligibility for bus Wi-Fi will help our district and students in a major way."
"Central Consolidated School District covers almost 3000 square miles of rural/tribal lands. The ruling for Wi-Fi on school buses to be eligible for E-rate funding will be essential for our students who, on average, ride the bus for 90 minutes each day," said Leandro M. Venturina, Director of Data, Assessment, Research and Technology at Central Consolidated School District. "Students are able to complete homework and other school-related tasks and communicate with teachers through the Learning Management System on their way to and from school. This effort will be a significant game changer for CCSD students to respond to the growing needs for digital skills."
“Socorro Consolidated Schools is a rural district servicing the city of Socorro and outlying communities. Bus routes can be as long as an hour-long for some students, and bus Wi-Fi would provide tools to better utilize that time,” said Jeffrey Tull, Technology Director at Socorro Consolidated Schools. “In addition, students travel long distances for extracurricular activities, which can impact study time. Bus Wi-Fi would allow all students to participate in these beneficial activities without suffering unproductive travel time. SCSD understands that bus Wi-Fi is no longer a luxury, currently providing Wi-Fi on the activity bus, but expanding this capability to all 14 buses would be a great enhancement for our students. With publisher content almost exclusively online and teachers utilizing tools even beyond the learning platforms, Wi-Fi on buses is essential to the learning process.”
The SHLB Coalition has been a leading advocate for expanding E-Rate support for Wi-Fi on school buses since 2017, when it submitted comments to the FCC on the issue. The SHLB Coalition also filed a Petition for Rulemaking in January 2021, arguing that connectivity solutions to expand broadband accessibility for remote learning during the pandemic, including school bus Wi-Fi in targeted locations, are for educational purposes. The SHLB Coalition also supported the original proposal by FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in May 2022 to use E-Rate funds for school bus Wi-Fi.
The SHLB Coalition is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) public interest organization that supports open, affordable, high-quality broadband connections for anchor institutions and their surrounding communities. The SHLB Coalition is based in Washington, D.C. and has a diverse membership of non-commercial and commercial organizations from across the United States. To learn more, visit www.shlb.org.