Electric School Buses to Add WiFi

Starting now, electric school buses from IC Bus, a subsidiary of Navistar, will be adding WiFi as a standard feature, in a new agreement with Kajeet, a company that produces devices for internet access in education. Under the deal, Kajeet's SmartBus WiFi service will be made available to customers for a year; after that, they need to pay. Districts running IC Bus vehicles currently will also be able to buy the service too, as an add-on option.

The solution is compatible, according to Kajeet, with all major U.S. mobile carriers. With the use of a Kajeet management platform, administrators and the IT organization can view data usage information about all connected devices on the buses and set up mobile policy controls, content blocking and web filtering.

Various sources have calculated that 55% of K-12 students travel by school bus daily, during non-pandemic times. The average duration of the bus ride varies from state to state. In North Carolina it's 24 minutes; in Arkansas, it's 47 minutes. For students in some areas, the trips can last hours a day.

The goal of the agreement, according to the companies, is to provide a safe mobile homework zone for those students, allowing them to use their commutes to do school work. They noted that the presence of WiFi has also had a positive impact on the number of incidents that take place on buses. Raytown School District in Missouri was an early adopter of WiFi on their school buses as part of the SmartBus pilot program. After having WiFi connectivity available on their buses, the number of disciplinary referrals dropped 45 percent.

"We live in a truly connected time. Internet connection is no longer nice to have, it is nearly required," said Trish Reed, vice president and general manager of IC Bus, in a press release. "We are proud to work with Kajeet to offer a simple, comprehensive and effective way for school districts to provide internet connectivity to its students during transit and enable all the resources that come with it."

"The shift to remote learning over the last year greatly exposed vast digital inequities among students, and those without reliable internet access are now even further behind," added Daniel Neal, chairman, CEO and founder of Kajeet. "Our goal with this partnership is to support school systems as they welcome students back to learn in-person and to close the digital divide. We're excited to expand our partnership with IC Bus and to further enable student success through secure, technology-enabled school buses."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.