SpaceX wants to put Starlink internet on rural school buses

The pilot would keep kids online during lengthy rides home.

Sinenkiy via Getty Images

Starlink satellite internet access has already spread to boats and RVs, and now it might accompany your child on the way home from class. SpaceX told the FCC in a filing that it's piloting Starlink aboard school buses in the rural US. The project would keep students connected during lengthy rides (over an hour in the pilot), ensuring they can complete internet-related homework in a timely fashion even if broadband is slow or non-existent at home.

The spaceflight company simultaneously backed FCC chair Jessica Rosenworcel's May proposal to bring WiFi to school buses, and said it supported the regulator's efforts to fund school and library internet access through the E-Rate program. To no one's surprise, SpaceX felt it had the best solution thanks to rapid satellite deployment, portable dishes and fast service for the "most remote" areas.

We've asked the FCC and SpaceX for comment, and will let you know if they respond. The pitch comes just two months after the FCC cleared the use of Starlink in vehicles, noting that it would serve the "public interest" to keep people online while on the move. The concept isn't new — Google outfitted school buses with WiFi in 2018 following tests, for example.

There's no guarantee the FCC will embrace SpaceX and fund bus-based Starlink service. The Commission rejected SpaceX's request for $885.5 million in help through the Rural Digital Opportunity Fund, and the firm responded by blasting the rejection as "grossly unfair" and allegedly unsupported by evidence. Satellite internet service theoretically offers more consistent rural coverage than cellular data, though, and Starlink competitors like Amazon's Project Kuiper have yet to deploy in earnest.