News

School buses bring Wi-Fi to impoverished families

By Nichole Dobo, The Hechinger Report
January 7th, 2015

As internet access becomes essential for students, districts are finding ways to expand Wi-Fi coverage

bus-wi-fiNear the shore of the murky Salton Sea in the Southern California desert, a bus drives up to West Shores High School each day with a critical connection: A Wi-Fi router mounted behind an interior mirror, providing internet access for students whose homes aren’t wired.

At night, the bus driver parks more than 15 miles away on a sand driveway in a mobile home park. There, the hotspot is available to students as long as the battery lasts. On most nights, it fades after one hour.

Unlike wired and wealthy communities elsewhere, many homes in the former resort town of Salton City, about 65 miles north of the Mexican border, do not have high-speed internet. The school bus Wi-Fi program that the district started this fall is one example of how a poor and undeserved community is trying to help students get better connected.

President Barack Obama mentioned the district’s efforts in a in a recent speech in Washington, calling the effort “really smart. You’ve got underutilized resources–buses in the evening–so you put the routers on, disperse them, and suddenly everybody is connected.”

(Next page: Internet access remains a challenge for many students)