Senators Tom Udall, Cory Gardner Introduce Bill To Put Wi-Fi On School Buses

In an effort to help students who have no internet access at home, Senators Tom Udall and Cory Gardner introduced a bill to put wireless internet on school buses.

The new bill would allow the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) E-Rate program to reimburse schools that place Wi-Fi technology on school buses ferrying students to school or related extracurricular activities, states a press release issued by the senators.

Senator Udall reiterated that lack of internet access should not stop a child from succeeding. According to a report by eSchool News, Udall, in 2016, sent a letter to then-FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. He appealed to the FCC to use its authority to help close the homework gap where students still need broadband access in order to complete their homework or assignment. Specifically, Senator Udall urged the commission to use its existing authority to allow E-rate to support school bus WiFi service in a manner that is both technically feasible and economically reasonable.

Shedding light on the new bill, Udall said that every child in New Mexico must have the opportunity to succeed no matter where they live.

"Nearly one-third of the kids are at risk of falling behind simply because they do not have access to the internet at home," he said, adding that this legislation will offer students an opportunity to study and do homework assignments while they're on the bus.

Senator Gardner said that the new legislation will bring the classroom to the road. As many students in rural school districts across Colorado and the country spend hours on the bus each day commuting to and from school, they will have an opportunity to use their time more effectively.

"Installing Wi-Fi on school buses will allow them to finish homework assignments," he said.

The legislation has received widespread support from stakeholders, including the School Superintendents Association, a professional organization representing thousands of educational leaders throughout America and the world; the Competitive Carriers Association, an advocacy organization for rural, regional and nationwide wireless telecommunications; and NTUA Wireless, a Navajo-owned communications company.

This initiative will help bridge the digital divide, particularly in tribal communities in New Mexico, which have no access to the internet.

"When we think about efficiencies in federal policies, and common sense solutions that allow education system leaders to make small changes with big impacts: that is the type of policy we can support," said Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director of the School Superintendents Association.