Wifi On School Buses? Here’s The Big Debate

By Erika Hanson | 1 month ago

wifi bus

If the pandemic taught us anything, it was that the digital divide was greater than most realize. As schools shuttered their doors at the onset of the pandemic, school districts turned to online education as an alternative to keep children learning. But there were many issues with this. The biggest of course was that many students had no access to internet connections at home. As the situation has shed light on the matter, a new proposal is looking to make internet access more accessible to students, and to so do, the initiative looks to boost wifi buses. But not everyone agrees with it.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently announced a proposal on May 11th that may soon create wifi buses for public schools. The initiative would use federal E-rate funding to pay for this massive endeavor if it’s approved. In a similar government initiative, the Biden Administration also recently announced that they will be offering high-speed internet subsidies available to low-income families to pay for student internet access at home. 

Within the proposal memo for wifi buses, the FCC made it clear that this effort would be for educational use only. But defectors were quick to call out the issues they feel this proposal could create. EdWeek shared some social media users’ reasons for opposition.

Above all, opposers decried the initiative, saying that children on these wifi-loaded buses would not be using the internet access for educational purposes. These users worried that instead of using that time to complete homework, students would be on the internet looking at social media, YouTube videos, or worse. They complained that even with blocks and restrictions to filter out access to inappropriate content, they believe that many students know how to get around the filters.

Furthermore, other adversaries to the wifi buses measure questioned who would monitor students’ activity while riding the buses to and from school. They pointed out that plenty of buses are already jam-packed with kids, and acknowledged that bus drivers already have enough responsibilities while making sure to get children home safe on the road. Others were opposed to the idea for separate reasons, pointing out the common fear that with soaring gas prices, many are afraid that their public schools won’t be able to afford to bus students next year.

But with all that resistance, many users spoke out in favor of the initiative to fund wifi buses. Many pointed out that students often have to ride the bus for extended amounts of time, especially in rural areas where buses drive long routes to reach children’s homes. Many users pointed out that they would always take that time to get their homework done. And above all, they agreed with the major purpose of the initiative, that it will hopefully weaken the gap that divides students who do not have reliable internet access at home. 

wifi buses

Within the FCC proposal, the plan would be to not only make the wifi buses accessible to students riding home, but also to act as a wi-fi hot stop if they have no internet access at home. One parent commented saying that she knows what it feels like to have to spend hours on end inside McDonald’s in order for her child to have internet access to get school work done. And as for those complaining about inappropriate usage of the internet, experts believe the filters are impenetrable to most and will keep kids focused on their school work.

While many worry whether or not their schools will even be able to bus students next year, it is not necessarily an outlandish idea to many to implement internet access via wifi buses. More than ever before, the internet is accessible to many, and it seems to be perpetually becoming more available everywhere you go. Whether that’s a good thing for our youth or not, however, is subjective.