SpaceX plans to bring Starlink internet to students on school buses in the U.S., according to a new filing with the Federal Communications Commission.
The space exploration company is collaborating with several school districts for pilot projects in rural areas of the country to support students who have to travel on long bus routes. This gives students internet access while on those long rides.
SpaceX is focusing on school bus routes that are over an hour long each way and are also predominantly inaccessible to other mobile broadband services. In a letter addressed to FCC Secretary Marlene Dortch, SpaceX expressed its support for the agency’s efforts to fund the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism (E-Rate program) connecting millions of students who don’t have access to broadband internet.
“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. 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.”
This lines up with what Elon Musk said over the summer about Starlink, education, and access to the internet. When asked about solutions to poverty, he said,”Literacy and access to internet, I think, are fundamentally helpful.”
According to the Borgen Project, 60 million people could be alleviated from poverty if they received two or more years of education or completed secondary school. DoSomething.org notes that over 30 million children are growing up in poverty and that there is only one book for every 300 children in low-income communities.
In addition, a higher percentage of young adults without a high school diploma live in poverty, and 40% of children living in poverty aren’t prepared for primary schooling.
“So I think those things are helpful. Generally, education, obviously, is good. These days you can learn almost anything online. MIT, for example, has all of their lectures online and a number of other universities do. If you wanted to, you could learn almost anything for a very low cost just using a simple phone or an old tablet–a router box basically,” Elon Musk said.
“You’ve got access to all the world’s information. I think that this fact is really underappreciated and it’s something we should be I think pretty excited and optimistic about or feel good about which is that information before the internet was very limited.”
“If you wanted to learn a skill or trade or learn something, you would have to go to a school and you’d have to get the specific books or you’d have to go to a library in that library wouldn’t necessarily have all the books that you’d want. Or maybe there isn’t a library or there might not be a library near where you live.”
“But with the internet, you’ve got instant access to basically all the world’s information. So information equality is really incredible compared to where it used to be.”
In the letter to the FCC Secretary, SpaceX also pointed out that low-income students are affected disproportionately.
“According to a Pew Research Center Study, roughly one-third (35%) of households with children ages 6 to 17 and an annual income below $30,000 a year do not have a high-speed internet connection at home.”
“And many students who need the most support live miles from school, with lengthy commutes but no connectivity. Subsidized funding such as the E-Rate program should address digital equity and enable increased educational opportunities for students across the United States by ensuring access to high-speed internet at home and on the way to school.”
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