Republicans At Odds with FCC Over Proposed Expansion of Wi-Fi to School Buses

( – Congressional Republicans are up in arms about the potential tweaking of a proposed rule from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding E-rate funding. FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel is aiming to clarify that E-rate funding can be used to enable Wi-Fi access on school buses.

As of now, it is a program that provides internet access at a discount to schools. However, many students, especially in rural areas, spend nearly 40 minutes each day after school riding on a bus. Rosenworcel believes that time could be spent working on homework. The FCC has faced roadblocks in advancing proposals while awaiting the confirmation of a commissioner. Anna Gomez was confirmed by the Senate on September 7 with bipartisan support.

Republican lawmakers who oppose the addition of Wi-Fi to school buses argue that children will be allowed unsupervised access to social media sites and other potentially dangerous content. Senator Ted Cruz, who is the ranking member of the Senate Commerce Committee, along with Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers, who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, believe that Wi-Fi on school buses is a bad idea. The pair recently sent a letter to Commissioner Gomez asking her to reject the proposal. They also released a statement about the matter, writing that they are concerned about “subsidizing children’s unsupervised internet access to social media sites like TikTok and Instagram” while on the bus.

Kajeet CEO Ben Weintraub sought to address Cruz and Rodger’s concerns. Kajeet is a company that installs Wi-Fi on school buses, but also monitors internet activity. He said that Kajeet locks “the filter down way tighter” than it is at schools, making it impossible for students to access social media or messaging apps while on the bus.

Those who are advocating for Wi-Fi on buses also pointed out that athletes spend hours traveling to and from ballgames, time which could be spent finishing up homework. One customer of Kajeet said that student behavior on buses has improved since Wi-Fi was installed, noting a decrease in fights. With the Democrat majority on the FCC board, the proposal is likely to pass.

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