About the Hawaii Wifi on Wheels project
Since early in the COVID-19 crisis, efforts have been underway in states such as Texas, Indiana, Utah, Ohio, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Arkansas to deploy inactive school buses as WiFi internet hotspots to help kids and families access important online learning, telehealth, and social resources. Given the large number of disconnected families in Hawaii, local educators and external partners are actively working to pilot regional public-private partnerships to bring this model to Hawaii’s most disconnected communities.
- #HawaiiStrong: Local non-profit group hopes to roll out Wifi on Wheels program in Hawaii
- Geek Beat: Wifi on Wheels and Hawaiian Hope
- Episode 612: ManaUp + Wifi on Wheels – May 20, 2020
- Hawaii Public Schools Gear Up For Summer Programs
- Hawaii Schools Under Pressure To Provide More Data About Remote Learning
- Lack of Internet Access Creates Disparity Among Public School Students
How you can get involved
Since this is an organic community-led partnership, we eagerly welcome community partners of all backgrounds to support Wifi on Wheels. Please fill out the below form to learn more and let us know how you want to help. Thank you!
- about 10.2% of Hawaiʻi’s residents are without an internet subscription (total 1,376,737 population; 1,235,622 estimated to have subscription)
- of reported races and ethnicities, about 20.1% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders are without internet
- when factoring in educational attainment, 26.5% of households with less than a high school diploma or equivalent are without internet (jumps to 86.6% when a HS graduate with some college or AA)
Laurens: 12 Million Kids Lack Internet Access. Now Is the Time for the Government to Step In and Close the Digital Divide
- Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, creator of the original E-rate program, and 15 other senators sent a letter urging Ajit Pai, chairman of the FCC, to “use its emergency powers to temporarily waive relevant E-rate program rules and allow its beneficiaries to utilize universal service funding to provide home wireless service to existing school devices and hotspots for students who lack internet access at home.”
Austin school district deployed over 100 school buses equipped with WiFi for students without internet access
- Students can connect to the WiFi using their school computers only, not personal devices, though they’re not allowed to board the bus. While everyone is advised to stay inside, students may have to move closer to the bus to gain access to the WiFi, but must remain at least six feet apart from anyone else to follow social distancing guidelines.
- The WiFi equipped buses are funded through a $600,000 grant from Kajeet, an education technology provider.
Governor Newsom Announces Cross-Sector Partnerships to Support Distance Learning and Bridge the Digital Divide
- The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) is partnering with the City of Sacramento for a 60-day proof of concept to be launched on May 1, 2020.
- Seven transit buses will be repurposed and outfitted with super hotspots providing connectivity with at least a 500-foot radius. Buses will park between 4-8 hours to provide high-speed Internet services to surrounding locations while people remain in homes or congregate at safe distances while under supervision.
- Hotspot locations and protocols will be determined in collaboration between the City of Sacramento, Valley Vision, Sacramento Public Library, SacRT, CalSTA, and public health officials.
- Lessons learned from the proof of concept will be converted into a model for cities throughout California to replicate.
- Rethink K-12 School Models Grant is aimed at opening new, innovative ways for students to access K-12 education with an emphasis on meeting students’ needs during the coronavirus national emergency. The competition is open to state educational agencies which can apply for funds in one of the three categories:
- Microgrants for families, so that states can ensure they have access to the technology and educational services they need to advance their learning
- Statewide virtual learning and course access programs, so that students will always be able to access a full range of subjects, even those not taught in the traditional or assigned setting
- New, field-initiated models for providing remote education not yet imagined, to ensure that every child is learning and preparing for successful careers and lives.
- But how do they work? Owens said the buses can pull into parking lots and turn on the devices. They broadcast for about 100 yards in every direction, allowing those living within range to access the internet for free.
- The buses are parking in larger parking lots, which also allows others looking for ways to access the internet to pull up in vehicles and work.
- In these instances, Abilene ISD is encouraging folks to remain in their vehicles for social distancing purposes.
The “Park and Learn” initiative will be at:
► Continental Villa Apartments off Arnold Boulevard
► A parking lot off Kirkwood Street, between North Second and North Third streets
► The parking lot of the former Walmart on North Judge Ely Boulevard
► The parking lot of Southwest Baptist Church on South 20th and Matador streets;
► The parking lot of North Park Baptist Church at Anson Avenue and Beech Street.
- Steps are being taken to protect the drivers.
- No students are allowed on the buses. No other adults, either.
- The drivers have their own buses, so the next day’s driver isn’t recycling the same vehicle, Wilson said.
- That way, if one driver ends up getting sick, no others are affected, officials said.
- Drivers wipe the devices before they take them on their bus and after the two-hour slot is finished, Wilson said, making sure they’re clean, as much as possible.
- “I think it’s a great plan,” Wilson said. “I hope people take advantage. It’s a great opportunity for our students to connect if they don’t have a WiFi plan at home.”
- While these devices certainly assist in the short term, they may also provide some future use, too. Once schools reopen and life returns to as close to normal as possible, that is.
- Owens said the devices now are Abilene ISD property bought and not leased. And there are a number of ways post-coronavirus pandemic students will be able to use them.
- For instance, students on a school’s track team go away for a meet. In the past, many would sit idly in the stands, awaiting their event.
- But with these hotspots, the district could offer students free internet to connect their devices for the purpose of completing homework on the go.
- CTIA, the wireless association, today announced a new program to help children participate in distance learning during COVID-19. The Connecting Kids Initiative simplifies the process for school districts to find remote learning hotspot solutions by connecting them with wireless operators working to provide broadband access to kids and families in their area. Participating carriers include the three nationwide wireless operators as well as regional operators across the country.