Google proves Microsoft’s White Spaces not needed with own WIFI-enabled school busses

Microsoft has been trying to convince authorities to allow it to use the spectrum between TV channels for broadband internet primarily by selling it as a social good, providing internet to disadvantaged rural communities.

We posted recently about their latest initiative to turn school buses in rural Michigan into WIFI hotspots, allowing students without broadband at home to complete school assignments while making long trips to and from school. The busses would make the final hop to a wired network over White Spaces network connection.

Now Google has released details of their own initiative to provide internet access to rural students while they travel to and from school, and there is no mention of the need for advanced wireless technology.

Started in 2016  in the Caldwell County school district of North Carolina, the Rolling Study Halls program has now been expanded using technology from education broadband provider Kajeet and networking nonprofit CoSN, to link up to 11 school buses with WIFI.

“The effects were immediate—almost too immediate for some bus drivers who were shocked (and a little confused) when their commutes became so quiet,” said Lilyn Hester, head of Google’s external affairs in the southeastern US. “Students were engaged. They were learning. And after a few months, there were more real results: School officials saw students do better in school. It was working.”

Analysis done by the College of Charleston found that digital literacy and homework completion went up and that teachers were more willing to add digital elements to their curriculum.

Google intends to expand the Rolling Study Halls to 16 more districts. Read more about their initiative here.