According to a new filing with the Federal Communications Commission, SpaceX plans to make Starlink internet available to students on school buses across the United States.
The space exploration company is working with several school districts on pilot projects in rural areas of the country to support students who have to travel on long bus routes. This gives the students internet access during those long journeys.
SpaceX focuses on school bus routes, each over an hour long, and also mostly inaccessible to other mobile broadband services. In a letter to FCC Secretary Marlene Dortch, SpaceX expressed its support for the agency’s efforts to fund the Universal Service Support Mechanism (E-Rate program) for schools and libraries, connecting millions of students who do not have access to the have broadband internet.
“SpaceX is committed to ensuring access to high-speed, low-latency broadband services to serve American students as quickly as possible, not only at home but also on the way to and from school. In fact, SpaceX has prioritized connecting otherwise underserved schools and libraries in the most remote parts of the country, including in tribal areas.”
“SpaceX therefore strongly agrees with Chair Rosenworcel that the provision of Wi-Fi on school buses is critical to bridging the homework gap and that the provision of such services should be considered for E-Rate support.”
“The Commission should act quickly to expand the scope of the E-Rate program by adopting the Chairperson’s draft determination decision to ensure equal access to high-speed broadband service on school buses in addition to schools and libraries already eligible.”
This aligns with what Elon Musk said about Starlink, education, and access to the internet over the summer. When asked about solutions to poverty, he said, “I think literacy and access to the internet is fundamentally helpful.”
According to the Borgen Project, 60 million people could be lifted out of 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 in low-income communities there is only one book for every 300 children.
In addition, a higher percentage of young adults without a high school diploma live in poverty, and 40% of children living in poverty are not prepared for primary school.
“So I think those things are helpful. In general, education is obviously good. Almost anything can be learned online these days. MIT, for example, has all of its lectures online, and a number of other universities do the same. If you wanted to, you could learn almost anything at very little cost, just using a basic phone or an old tablet — basically a router box,” said Elon Musk.
“You have access to all the information in the world. I think that fact is really underestimated and we should I think we should be pretty excited and optimistic or feel good because before the internet this information was very limited.”
“If you wanted to learn a skill or a trade or learn something, you would have to go to a school and get yourself the specific books, or you would have to go to a library, where that library didn’t necessarily have to have all the books you wanted.” Or maybe there is no library or there is no library near where you live.”
“But with the Internet, you have instant access to virtually all the information in the world. So the parity of information is really incredible compared to before.”
In the letter to the FCC Secretary, SpaceX also noted that low-income students were being disproportionately affected.
“According to a study by the Pew Research Center, about one-third (35%) of households with children ages 6 to 17 and an annual income of less than $30,000 don’t have high-speed Internet access at home.”
“And many students who need the most support live miles from school, with long commutes to work but no connectivity. Subsidized funding like the E-Rate program should address digital equity and enable better 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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