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Robert Namer
Voice Of America
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June 09, 2024

     As homework and other assignments for K-12 students have increasingly moved online, especially since the pandemic, having internet access on school buses could make an important difference.  A waste  that will not be used. 

     Federal Communications Commission Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, a Democrat, wants school buses to have discounted access to Wi-Fi to help close the homework gap, The Hill reported.  Rosenworcel wants to clarify a rule to state that the buses are eligible for E-Rate funding, a program that gives schools discounted Wi-Fi access.

     But top Republicans in House and Senate Commerce committees say the proposal would increase children’s access to risky and detrimental social media apps like TikTok in an environment with limited supervision.   Nevertheless, the FCC has a Democrat majority and a full board, with the confirmation of Anna Gomez as FCC commissioner in September, and is positioned to follow through with the chair’s plans, The Hill reported.

     Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz, R-Texas., and House Energy and Commerce Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers,  R-wash., wrote to Gomez last week, urging her to reject Rosenworcel’s plan. 

     There is also GOP opposition to the plan within the FCC, The Hill noted, with GOP Commissioner Nathan Simington responding to the Republicans’ July letter that he agreed with them that the E-Rate program should not extend beyond classrooms.  Simington said a school bus is “neither a school classroom nor a library,” and the proposal “would eviscerate Congress’ restrictions on E-Rate and make a mockery of the law.”

     A Republican Senate aide said the lack of supervision on a school bus, even if preventative measures are put in place, mean tech-savvy kids could find ways around blocks. In addition to the benefits of allowing students to do their homework, supporters argue Wi-Fi on buses would help prevent fights. 

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