Jon Fingas

SpaceX wants to put Starlink internet on rural school buses | Engadget

Starlink satellite internet access has already extended to boats and RVs, and now it could accompany your child on the way home from class. SpaceX told the FCC in a filing that it flies Starlink on school buses in rural areas of the United States. The project would allow students to stay connected over long commutes (more than an hour in the pilot), ensuring that they can complete their internet-related assignments in a timely manner, even if broadband is slow or non-existent at home.

The spaceflight company simultaneously backed FCC Chairman Jessica Rosenworcel’s May proposal to bring WiFi to school buses, and said it supports the regulator’s efforts to fund internet access in schools and libraries through the E-Rate program. Unsurprisingly, SpaceX felt it had the best solution with rapid deployment of satellites, portable satellite dishes and fast service for “the most remote” areas.

We’ve asked the FCC and SpaceX for comment, and we’ll let you know if they respond. The pitch comes just two months after the FCC cleared Starlink for use in vehicles, noting it would be in the public interest to keep people online while on the move. The concept is not new: Google equipped school buses with WiFi in 2018 following tests, for example.

There is no guarantee that the FCC will adopt SpaceX and fund the bus-based Starlink service. The Commission rejected SpaceX’s request for $885.5 million in aid through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, and the company responded by calling the rejection “grossly unfair” and allegedly unsupported by evidence. Satellite internet service theoretically offers more consistent rural coverage than cellular data, and Starlink competitors like Amazon’s Project Kuiper have yet to roll out in earnest.

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