Wi-Fi on school buses in Becker, MN

I think this is one of the best uses of Wi-Fi – on the school bus. It keeps the kids busy, it helps them get their homework done, it provides access to students who live farthest from school and may be least likely (due to availability) to have access at home. It doesn’t replace home access on a permanent basis, but it helps. Becker is the latest Minnesota school I’ve heard about with WiFi on the business as reported by Government Technology

Every weekday, a fleet of 20 buses ferries students to and from the Becker, Minn., elementary, middle and high schools. When they arrive at the curb, you can barely see a small object — about the size and color of a hockey puck — on the roof above the driver.

That device is part of a wireless communications system that, for some of the students anyway, makes it almost as if they never left the classroom.

Eighth-grader Mason Seeley and his brother, Parker, a sixth-grader, spend about an hour on the bus each way every day. They like to finish their school assignments on board so they have more free time when they get home.

What a great use of two hours and what a bonus (for kids and parents!) to get home and have the homework done.

The article goes on to tell the story of how the WI-Fi buses took shape; it’s a great example of leverage…

The process to connect the Becker buses started almost two years ago.

“We originally applied for a grant through the Public Utilities Commission to do something like this, but we didn’t get it,” said Ryan Cox, director of instructional technology for Becker schools. “But then Albert (Kangas) came to us with this partnership. The thing that’s nice is, while he speaks for Palmer Wireless, he also speaks for what’s best for our kids.”

The city of Becker was reluctant to allow a tower in town of the size Palmer needed, but it was permitted if it was going to benefit the school district, Albert Kangas said. Ultimately, Palmer struck a deal with the school district to provide 20 mobile 3G/Wi-Fi modems for the bus fleet, Internet service for those modems and backup Internet service for the district in case its primary provider has an outage. The wireless company then had the right to build a 170-foot tower on the Becker campus that would give Palmer access to a broad swath of potential new customers. The arrangement is for a five-year contract with a five-year renewal option.

To further maximize the investment, Palmer coordinated the tower pole to double as a light standard for the school’s soccer field and hold wireless Internet antennas to cover the campus. That has improved cell coverage on campus.

This entry was posted in education, MN, Wireless by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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