SpaceX is set to expand Starlink internet to school buses

According to a letter sent to the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday, SpaceX plans to provide students across the United States with access to the Starlink internet service on school buses.

Working with school districts, SpaceX is conducting pilots in rural areas across the country to support students on bus routes that travel more than 60 minutes each way and are “predominantly inaccessible to other mobile broadband services.”

“The overwhelming majority of participating students will not have access to high-speed broadband at home,” the filing reads. “By connecting school buses, students can optimize their commute time for essential educational internet use, as well as time spent with family and friends or recreational activities.”

According to the FCC, nearly 17 million schoolchildren do not have Internet access at home.

In May, FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel proposed using funds from the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism or the E-Rate program to add Wi-Fi to school buses. The proposal would clarify that the use of Wi-Fi or similar access point technology on school buses is for an educational purpose and that the provision of such a service is eligible for e-rate funding.

“Providing funding to access these services will benefit students in the United States at home and on the go — particularly in those areas underserved or not served at all by terrestrial alternatives,” the air and sea carrier’s letter said space giants. “SpaceX therefore urges the Commission to adopt the Chairperson’s draft finding decision and expeditiously make the necessary changes to the eligible services list to include services and equipment such as SpaceX’s cellular antennas, which can immediately provide Wi-Fi on school buses.” “

An image of a row of school buses.
SpaceX says connecting school buses will help students with their schoolwork.
Shutterstock / Tu Olles

Currently, funding for Wi-Fi on school buses is covered by the agency’s $7.17 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund program, a temporary program mandated by Congress as part of the COVID-19 relief effort. As of May, more than $35 million in funding had been provided through this program to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband service for school buses, according to Rosenworcel.

The letter comes after SpaceX received approval from the FCC in July to use Starlink for vehicles on the move, including RVs, trucks, boats and airplanes.

Since then, SpaceX has announced Starlink connectivity partnerships with T-Mobile, Royal Caribbean, Hawaiian Airlines and semi-private airline JSX. Founder Elon Musk also recently said the company has had “some promising discussions” with Apple about Starlink connectivity.

An image of the SpaceX logo at the headquarters.
Through May, this program had provided more than $35 million to purchase Wi-Fi hotspots and broadband services for school buses.
Shutterstock/Tada Images

The Starlink service is currently available on all seven continents, including Antarctica, for $110 per month with a one-time hardware cost of $599 for standard satellite dishes and $2,500 for “high power” satellite dishes. The company has also introduced a $500-per-month premium tier for businesses, a $135-per-month tier for RVs, and a $5,000-per-month tier for boats.

The company has deployed more than 3,000 Starlink satellites to date and currently has a base of over 400,000 Starlink subscribers worldwide.