SpaceX told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) it would like to provide Starlink Internet on school buses to enable students to do homework en route. According to a Pew Research Center study, approximately 35% of low-income families in the U.S. with children ages 6 to 17 do not have internet access at home. This inhibits them from doing some homework assignments. Earlier this year, the FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel proposed to direct funding from the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism program (E-Rate) to outfit school buses with Wi-Fi. The E-Rate program was established by the Commission to fund internet access at schools and libraries across the United States.
SpaceX submitted a filing with the FCC on September 20, proposing to install Starlink on school buses. "SpaceX is committed to ensuring access to high-speed, low-latency broadband service to benefit American students as quickly as possible, not only at home but on their way to and from school," the company wrote, "In fact, SpaceX has prioritized connecting otherwise unserved schools and libraries in the most remote parts of the country, including on Tribal lands. SpaceX therefore strongly agrees with Chairwoman Rosenworcel that providing Wi-Fi on school buses is critical to bridging the Homework Gap and that the provision of such services should be eligible for E-Rate support. The Commission should quickly act to expand the scope of the E-Rate program by adopting the Chairwoman’s draft Declaratory Ruling to ensure equitable access to high-speed broadband services on school buses in addition to the already eligible schools and libraries," wrote SpaceX representatives to the FCC.
SpaceX said that many low-income household students "who need the most support live miles from school, with lengthy commutes but no connectivity." The company told the FCC the Starlink broadband satellite constellation is best suited to serve students on buses because it is capable of providing internet to vehicles in motion, even when driving in remote locations. "SpaceX is piloting projects in rural areas of the country to support students travelling on long bus routes with the goal of turning 'ride time to connected time.' The bus routes are more than 60 minutes each way and are predominantly inaccessible to other mobile broadband services," the company shared with the FCC, "Moreover, the overwhelming majority of the participating students will not have access to high-speed broadband at home. Connecting school buses will afford students the ability to optimize their commute time for necessary educational internet use, as well as time spent with family and friends or recreational activities," said SpaceX. The company operates around 3,300 internet-beaming Starlink satellites in Low Earth Orbit that already provide service to over half-a-million customers living across 43 countries.
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About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.