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“Wi-Fi on Wheels”: Shrinking the Homework Gap

Posted by on Friday, November 17, 2023 in Blog Posts.

By Madeline Strasser

Around 17 million kids across the country have little to no internet access at home, leaving them to fall into the “homework gap.” [1] On Thursday, October 19, 2023, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) took a major step to closing the homework gap and announced that it will allow E-Rate funds to be used for providing Wi-Fi on school buses starting in funding year 2024.[2] This expansion of E-Rate funds will benefit millions of students, particularly in rural areas, who have long commutes on school buses every day.[3] Keith Krueger, CEO of the Consortium for School Networking, has projected that the average school bus ride for students is around forty minutes both to and from school.[4] With Wi-Fi on school buses, students will now be able to use the time they spend on a school bus every day to access their homework assignments. The FCC is hopeful that the addition of Wi-Fi on school buses will close the disparities in homework completion and lead to more academic success.[5]

The FCC’s E-Rate program was established in 1997 and is authorized by Congress through the Telecommunications Act of 1996.[6] Through the E-Rate program, eligible schools may apply for discounts to purchase telecommunications and internet services.[7] Section 254(h)(1)(B) of the Act establishes that an E-Rate supported service must be for educational purposes.[8] Section 254(h)(2)(A) of the Act establishes that the supported service should be primarily used to support connectivity.[9] While the E-Rate program does not normally support off-campus services, there have been limited circumstances where the Commission has allowed the use of E-Rate funds outside of the classroom.[10] Based on its past actions, the Commission has determined that adding Wi-Fi to school buses is an eligible use of E-Rate funds under the Section 254 standards.[11]

The measure was supported by Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, along with the two other Democratic Commissioners.[12] Both Republican Commissioners opposed the measure.[13] The Republican Commissioners argued that expanding the E-Rate program to support Wi-Fi on school buses goes against Congress’ intent in creating the E-Rate program.[14] They also expressed skepticism that children will actually do their homework while on the school bus rather than socialize with their friends.[15] Republican Members of Congress have also expressed their opposition arguing that the addition of Wi-Fi to school buses would increase student’s access to “risky and detrimental social media apps” under minimal supervision.[16] However, schools are sharing that this fear is unfounded.[17] A school district transportation director in New Mexico, stated that last year students in his school district collectively spent more than 63,000 hours visiting homework sites using school bus Wi-Fi and a filter used by the school district was able to block all attempts to access banned platforms like social media sites.[18]

With advanced technologies creating greater needs for students, this expansion of the E-Rate program is a critical step in expanding the list of advanced technologies eligible for E-Rate discounts. The Chairwoman has also proposed a pilot program to provide up to $200 million over three years to provide advanced cybersecurity services to schools and libraries.[19] This measure is awaiting a full vote of the Commission for approval.[20]

Madeline Strasser is a 2L at Vanderbilt University Law School from Rockville, Maryland.

[1] Jessica Rosenworcel, Addressing the Homework Gap, Federal Communications Commission (Feb. 1, 2021),

[2] FCC Announces E-Rate Funding Can Support Wi-Fi on School Buses, FCC News (Oct. 19, 2023),

[3] See Zachary Schermele, Wi-Fi on the Way to School: How FCC Vote Could Impact Your Kid’s Ride on the School Bus, USA Today (Oct. 20, 2023, 9:14 AM),

[4] Lexi Lonas & Rebecca Klar, Republicans Take on FCC over Proposal to Add Wi-Fi to School Buses, The Hill (Oct. 9, 2023, 6:00 AM),

[5] See Schermele, supra note 3.

[6] See 47 U.S.C. § 151.

[7] See E-Rate – Schools & Libraries USF Program, Federal Communications Commission,

[8] See 47 U.S.C. § 254(h)(1)(B).

[9] See 47 U.S.C. § 254(h)(2)(A).

[10] FCC Fact Sheet Clarifying the Use of Wi-Fi on School Buses is Eligible for E-Rate Funding, Federal Communications Commission (Sept. 28, 2023),

[11] See id.

[12] Alyson Klein, FCC: Schools Can Use E-Rate Funds to Cover WiFi on Buses, EducationWeek (Oct. 19, 2023),

[13] Id.

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Lexi Lonas & Rebecca Klar, Republicans Take on FCC over Proposal to Add Wi-Fi to School Buses, The Hill (Oct. 9, 2023, 6:00 AM),

[17] See id.

[18] Id.

[19] FCC Chairwoman Rosenworcel Takes Steps to Protect Schools Against Cyber Attacks, FCC News (July 12, 2023),

[20] See id.

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