Gardner, Udall Introduce Bill to Put Wi-Fi on School Buses

Bipartisan bill aims to close "homework gap" that disadvantages low-income and rural students without internet access at home

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Tom Udall (D-N.M.) introduced a bill to put wireless internet on school buses in order to help students without broadband access at home get online to study and do homework. The legislation would allow the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-Rate program to reimburse schools that place Wi-Fi technology on school buses carrying students to school or school related extracurricular activities.


“Many students in rural school districts across Colorado and the country spend hours on the bus each day commuting to and from school and traveling to sporting events,” said Gardner. “These students should have the opportunity to use their time more effectively and installing Wi-Fi on school buses will allow them to finish homework assignments and bring the classroom to the road. Senator Udall and I are introducing this bipartisan legislation that will allow school districts to invest in their students and use federal dollars to outfit their school buses with WiFi. This will help rural students and especially low-income students who may not otherwise have access to mobile Internet. I’m excited about this new opportunity and look forward to seeing students in Colorado benefit from this initiative.”


“Every New Mexico kid should have every opportunity to succeed – no matter where they live. But nearly one-third of kids in New Mexico are at risk of falling behind simply because they can’t get on the internet at home,” Udall said. “It’s time to end the homework gap. Our legislation will help give all students the ability to get online to study and do homework assignments while they’re on the bus – a common sense, 21st century solution. By boosting federal investment in broadband and internet infrastructure, we’ll help close the digital divide that hurts too many rural New Mexico communities, Tribes, and low-income families.”


The legislation has received widespread support from stakeholders, including the School Superintendents Association, a professional organization representing thousands of educational leaders through America and the world, and the Competitive Carriers Association, an advocacy organization for rural, regional and nationwide wireless telecommunications.


“Fountain-Fort Carson School District serves and supports the military families of Fort Carson and the City of Fountain in Colorado,” said Fountain-Fort Carson School Superintendent Keith Owen. “Our ability to provide Wi-Fi Services on our busses to all of our students while they are transported to and from school and activities would only further enhance educational opportunities for our students and compliment the 1:1 initiatives in our school district.  Providing districts access to E-rate for the necessary funding to make Wi-Fi on busses happen, would allow many districts to make this idea a reality for their students.


“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. "AASA applauds Mr. Gardner and Mr. Udall for their continued leadership on the issue of expanding access to internet for our students, and AASA is pleased to support their bill that would require the Federal Communications Commission to include Wi-Fi access on school buses an eligible use of the E-Rate program. AASA has long supported the E-Rate program, responsible for transforming internet access in classrooms across the nation over the last two decades, and this legislation is another step forward in ensuring that today’s 24-hour students have 24-hour access.”


“Making Wi-Fi services available for students on school buses eligible for E-rate support is a win-win for everyone, and I thank Senators Udall and Gardner for introducing this legislation," said Steven K. Berry, President and CEO of the Competitive Carriers Association. "Access to educational resources is just one of the many benefits that robust mobile broadband services provides, and this bill will be especially beneficial for students in rural areas with long drive-times to and from school.  ‘Connected buses’ should be available to all students, no matter where they live, and CCA supports this legislation moving forward.”


A copy of the legislation is available HERE.