Senator Cruz leads opposition to FCC’s plan to fund Wi-Fi on school buses, citing legal overreach and safety concerns

In Featured News by Wireless Estimator

Senator Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz and six Republican Senators believe the FCC has exceeded its statutory limit in funding access to WiFi for children on school buses.

In a significant legal challenge, U.S. Senate Commerce Committee Ranking Member Ted Cruz, along with several Republican senators, has filed an amicus brief in the Fifth Circuit, opposing the Biden administration’s move to extend the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-Rate program to include funding for Wi-Fi on school buses.

The lawsuit, titled Molak v. FCC, has been instigated by parents worried about the potential for their children to access social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram unsupervised during bus rides to and from school.

Senator Cruz criticized the FCC’s decision as both “dangerous” and “unlawful,” asserting that it would promote unsupervised access to addictive social media apps, which he believes are detrimental to the youth. “The FCC’s decision to fund children’s unsupervised access to social media on bus rides to and from school is both dangerous and unlawful. I’m glad to support other concerned parents in opposing this reckless rule, and I thank my colleagues for joining me in our effort to keep kids safe,” Cruz stated.

The group of senators, including Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), James Lankford (R-Okla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), and Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), argue in their brief that the FCC’s expansion of the E-Rate program exceeds its statutory limits and unlawfully continues a lapsed COVID-era program—the Emergency Connectivity Fund—which Congress chose not to renew. They contend that the FCC’s decision not only oversteps its legal bounds but also endangers children by enabling unsupervised internet access, which they say could divert attention from educational content to entertainment and social media.

The senators also point out that the statutory language of the Communications Act of 1934 restricts E-Rate funds to enhance “access to advanced telecommunications and information services for . . . school classrooms . . . and libraries” only, not extending to school buses. They highlight that the temporary provisions for off-campus internet access during COVID-19, provided under the American Rescue Plan Act, have expired and were not renewed by Congress, indicating a legislative decision against the permanent expansion of these services.

Furthermore, the senators criticize the FCC for not having conducted adequate analysis or oversight regarding Wi-Fi’s effectiveness and educational impact on school buses. They express concerns that the lack of rigorous assessment might lead to wasteful federal spending and fail to address potential negative effects on minors, such as exposure to inappropriate content and cyberbullying.

This legal challenge emphasizes the ongoing debate over the scope and direction of federal educational resources and the appropriate level of technology integration in school environments. It also raises broader questions about government oversight, the limits of federal agency authority, and the balancing act between advancing technology and protecting children in the digital age.

The outcome of this case could have significant implications for the FCC’s future regulatory actions and for children’s digital safety using federally funded educational technologies.