WASHINGTON, D.C. – Sen. Peter Welch (D-VT),a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce Science and Transportation, today applauded the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) decision to make Wi-Fi and similar technologies on school buses eligible for reimbursement under the FCC’s E-Rate program, which helps deliver telecommunications services to classrooms and libraries.
The positive decision by the FCC comes a week after Senator Welch welcomed FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to Williamstown, Vermont, for a discussion on rural broadband buildout, and the Central Vermont Supervisory Union’s efforts to install Wi-Fi on school buses, and how communities across the country can take inspiration from Vermont in their efforts to close the homework gap. During the October 19th Open Commission Meeting, the Chairwoman discussed Williamstown’s ‘Wi-Fi on Wheels’ and shared the story of student who lacked home broadband and relied on the school for an internet connection.
“In Vermont and across the country, rural students often travel long distances to and from school, making it necessary for learning to continue outside of the classroom. Expanding eligibility for the E-Rate program is crucial to closing the digital divide and closing the homework gap for our rural students. Today’s FCC vote is a major win for rural families, and will be instrumental in helping Vermont students thrive,” said Sen. Welch. “I’m thankful Chairwoman Rosenworcel joined us in Vermont earlier this month to hear directly from rural students and educators, and brought their voices with the Commission before the vote today.”
As a member of the House, Senator Welch championed bipartisan legislation, the E-Rate Support for School Bus Wi-Fi Act, to help close the homework gap for rural students who have long commutes by making Wi-Fi and similar technologies on school buses eligible under the FCC’s E-Rate program funding.
Vermont has the highest percentage of rural students in the country at 55%, and many Vermont students struggle to access the internet outside classroom walls. 22% of Americans lack access to fixed terrestrial 25/3 Mbps broadband, the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) minimum standard for broadband speed.
See photos from Chairwoman Rosenworcel and Senator Welch’s event in Williamstown here.