SpaceX wants to expand Wi-Fi access on school buses through its Starlink satellite internet service. The company submitted paperwork through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on September 20, requesting it allow for technology like SpaceX's mobile antennas to be installed on school buses to provide Wi-Fi access through its Starlink service.
Starlink Funding Request
SpaceX requested that it be eligible for E-Rate support. The FCC's E-Rate program makes telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries with funding from its Universal Service Fund. Discounts through the program range from 20- to 90% and are based on the poverty level of the schools. In 2021, the Emergency Connectivity Fund, which supported services and educational needs beyond the E-Rate program -- including broadband -- was announced. As the program winds down, the services it provided are now at risk, according to SpaceX's filing. SpaceX requested the FCC provide funding for rural school districts by expanding what the E-Rate program covers to include its Starlink satellite internet service.
"No service is better situated to better close this overlooked part of the Homework Gap than Starlink, which can deliver high-speed, low-latency broadband at reasonable costs even in the most remote parts of the country, including Polar Regions of the country, that are too often left behind," SpaceX's filing reads. "SpaceX is committed to rapidly developing systems, services and products that can help close the connectivity gap that students are experiencing each day on their long commutes."
Bridging the Homework Gap
SpaceX is piloting projects in rural areas of the country to support students traveling on long bus routes with the goal of turning "ride time to connected time," according to the FCC filing. The bus routes in the pilot projects are more than 60 minutes each way and are predominantly inaccessible to other mobile broadband services. Additionally, SpaceX reports that 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," the filing reads.