back to article How one of the poorest districts in the US pipes Wi-Fi to families – using school buses

America's second-poorest school district is also home to a surprising IT program that has won it national acclaim. The Coachella Valley Unified School District, located east of Los Angeles in California's Riverside County, encompasses around 1,250 square miles of largely rural areas. It includes 20,000 students, most from hard …

  1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    "You should see the amount of data being used by these kids,"

    Translation - they discovered on-line pr0n

    1. SoloSK71

      Re: "You should see the amount of data being used by these kids,"

      and don't forget all those neat torrents

  2. chivo243 Silver badge

    Cool Idea

    Someone was thinking with both hemispheres here... I'm impressed.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    So when are the big ISPs going to scream about government-subsidized competition?

    "What do you mean that the people living in that trailer park can't afford $120 a month for bundled internet/phone/TV service!!??"

    1. Richard Jones 1
      Thumb Up

      Re: So when are the big ISPs going to scream about government-subsidized competition?

      Sadly that was exactly what I thought, where is one of those sharks to cut this off by the legs. It is still a great idea, while it lasts.

    2. noominy.noom

      Re: So when are the big ISPs going to scream about government-subsidized competition?

      @Marketing Hack

      I live in the midwest in the U.S. and you won't get much for $120. My TV is more than that and I have no sports packages and only one movie package (Starz.) Combined, my internet/phone/TV is just under double your estimate, about $225.

  4. jonnycando

    What he means is...

    Even if they can afford it. It may not be available to get. I am somewhat rural myself and lowly dsl is all I can get. Father up the road there is nothing.

    1. 404

      Re: What he means is...


      Try satellite broadband if you're into self-flagellation.... been on a DSL waiting list from AT$T since 2007...

      1. Mark Simon

        Re: What he means is...

        You’ve got satellite?

        I remember when I had to connect to the Internet via two tomato tins and a piece of string. Of course we couldn’t afford tomatoes in those days, so we had to substitute discarded paint tins which we found rummaging through the garbage tip. Of course being too poor to afford our own garbage tip, we had to travel for miles to the one in the next county. On foot. Bare feet, because we were so disadvantaged that we only had one pair of shoes which we saved for special occasions such as our own funerals. If you could afford a funeral at all, instead of just being dumped in the aforementioned garbage tip.

        And don’t even talk about the string which had to be unraveled from old underwear which only only the upper echelon could afford …

        Just kidding. Well done Coachella Valley for having the will to do good with an otherwise idle resource.

        1. 404

          Re: What he means is...

          Oh yeah? Before satellite, I had to carry packets myself. Latency between my office and home was 45 minutes... traceroute was a bitch because of gravel backhauls that slow the data truck lan device..

          It was horrible.... latency is only 723ms now...

          1. Potemkine Silver badge

            Re: What he means is...

            You were lucky to carry packets yourself, I had to crawl on small pieces of broken glass to bring mine

            But you try and tell the young people today that... and they won't believe ya

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: What he means is...

            "Latency between my office and home was 45 minutes"

            What was the latency on avian carried packets? (And the data loss due to predators)

  5. 2460 Something
    Thumb Up

    It is very satisfying to see someone make some good common sense decisions and actually provide something of massive value to the community at large. Bravo that man (and the entire team behind it).

    1. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

      Come on Google/Facebook/MS

      or any other big IT outfit. Together or individually, sponsor this programme with a small bit of your petty cash.

      1. 's water music

        Re: Come on Google/Facebook/MS

        sponsor this programme with a small bit of your petty cash.

        Free basics?

        But seriously, well done that man

    2. mad_dr

      Agreed. Whoever came up with this idea should go ahead and take the rest of the week off.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the Bus

    As I understand it, these 97 buses are meant to (eventually) provide proper broadband in the 20,000 student region. The mentioned cost is a quarter million. Say 10 bucks per student served. That cost doesn't include the buses themselves; that's paid by the taxpayer. I assume that the router install base will suffer some 'shrinkage' over time. They are school buses after all.

    Then there is the quality to be expected by the consumers, those students. I'm not up on the capabilities of the tech in this area, but I bet it won't be top notch, particularly when Pr0n River is in full flood. The article states an on-station rate of ten buses, which I assume is insufficient for the needs?

    Given all that, I estimate that quarter mil is only a down-payment when all is said and done. Don't get me wrong, if there was ever a good rationale for taxation to benefit the poor, this is it. You can't avoid SOME positive effects on a population newly exposed to big pipes, right? Beats most other social spending anyway.

    Still, one would welcome a proper breakdown of the real costs, government vs private sector, along with actual bandwidth delivered reliably.

    1. Graham Marsden

      Re: On the Bus

      > if there was ever a good rationale for taxation to benefit the poor, this is it. You can't avoid SOME positive effects on a population newly exposed to big pipes, right? Beats most other social spending anyway.

      I can hear your teeth gritting from here on the other side of the pond...

    2. David Pollard

      Re: On the Bus

      I assume that the router install base will suffer some 'shrinkage' over time.

      One of the positive aspects of community involvement is that vandalism tends to diminish. When local people, including the young ones, are directly involved in the way that their local environment looks and functions then to an extent it becomes self-policing.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: On the Bus

      "I assume that the router install base will suffer some 'shrinkage' over time. They are school buses after all."

      When "shrinkage" means "no network", you can guarantee that the culprit will have a group of students lighting a barbeque on his front lawn and adding him (invariably "him") to the grill.

      1. Triggerfish

        Re: On the Bus

        Yep screw that network, kill a load of teens pron and dodgy downloads link. You'll wake up one morning to the Children of The Corn on your front yard.

  7. raving angry loony


    Richest country on the planet. 3rd world conditions for so many of its residents. Sick culture.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: America

      America IS a third world country. Just one with a lot of money

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: America

      The only US citizens in 3rd world conditions are there because they're trapped in leftist-controlled voting plantations, fed just enough taxpayer-funded goodies to keep them dependent.

      And yes, it is sick.

      1. raving angry loony

        Re: America

        You should know that if you compare it to something outside itself, the USA doesn't HAVE "leftist" areas. It's all more or less right-wing. Even "extreme right". The whole country is basically one large mass of corporatist politicians and bureaucrats. What you call "left" in that country is still what most other countries would call "corporatist" or even "fascist". With all the symptoms of such governance including a larger and larger divide between an ever decreasing class of "those who have", and an ever increasing class of "everyone else who doesn't have" as the country slowly (although rather quickly in a historical context) implodes after having scuttled its democracy in the late 40's, early 50's in favour of a fundamentalist corporate state.

        The poor don't tend to care much if an empire falls, because when it does they usually don't have anything to lose anyway. Or as a friend used to say: "eat the rich, because the poor are tough and stringy".

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: America

          So what you're saying is that the non-US parts of the world have become so extreme in their Socialism dependency that it makes US leftists appear to be on the right? No wonder so many people want to get into the US!

          1. raving angry loony

            Re: America

            No, I'm saying you have zero reading comprehension, and are probably a product of they fairly typical American educational system, such as it is.

            The USA doesn't have a "left" except as a fringe group. What so many Americans call "left" is actually very right wing, but because they haven't got a clue as to what an actual "left" looks like, they keep mistaking theirs for one. Other countries do have a "left" and a "right". The USA just has "right" and "far right". Very unbalanced. Even unhinged.

  8. Winkypop Silver badge

    School buses?

    I thought the Internet was a series of tubes!

    1. 404

      Re: School buses?

      A loaded school bus IS a meat tube.... so it still applies.


  9. wayne 8

    Wow, politicos actually use common sense and use what they have available.

    Wow. And in California of all places.

  10. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Rural America is like stepping back in time

    For Politicians even at state level, is does not really exist.

    There are some really remote parts of the country.

    There is a road going from Nevada into Oregon that has a sign saying

    Lakeview 179 miles

    200yds down the road there is another one

    Next Gas 179.

    Turn around and it is 82miles to 'Gas'. Wonderful and beautiful country but a long way from nowhere.

    So being serious for a moment, what company would invest in anything but wet string to provide internet out there?

    This area of California is pretty remote and the small population widely scattered. Income? Mostly Benefits. There was work once but the mines closed a long time ago. Not a lot left out there. So unless you are going to make the citizens move... you are stuck. The 19th Centurty ideal of having their own claim/homestead and living on it remains true today.

    this solution deserves a lot of kudos. Well done.

  11. PNGuinn


    So this, I asume totallty cash strapped, local administration decided to spaff a load of dosh on some tablets.

    And then found that there was no connetivity.

    So spaffed some more on wifi for the buses so the kids can connect on the way to school.

    Which would, in a sparsely populated area, give superb continuous wideband coverage ...

    After all, there's no one else out there to use all that bandwidth, is there?

    Etc, etc.

    Do I smell a huge porkfest somewhere?

    How many decent books would the spiralling costs of this have provided?

    Sorry, but I'm just not convinced.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Books

      "How many decent books would the spiralling costs of this have provided?"

      Have you priced textbooks recently?

      If done right this is cheaper. So are the tablets

    2. Triggerfish

      Re: Books

      Good assumption, what are the facts?

  12. PeteA

    Intelligent solution

    We desperately need more stuff like this - creative solutions to real-[admittedly first]-world problems. I work in the financial sector and frequently despair of the overblown, overcomplicated and ridiculously expensive solutions that "The Business" come up with for trivial problems.

    Somewhere along the lines, we seem to have convinced ourselves as a society that the right solution for any problem has to involve big shiny technology. As a consequence, solving problems creatively seems to be becoming a lost art. Kudos for the people who came up with this :).

  13. psychonaut

    I wonder why they didnt mount the antenna externally? Noone would stupid enough to steal the wifi antenna would yhey?

  14. andy 28

    How does the driver get home?

    Are the buses only parked outside the drivers' homes? Hence the 10 deployed. Or is there a bus following to collect the driver and bring him/her out the next morning? We should be told. It's not just technology that makes a solution :)

    1. The Axe

      Re: How does the driver get home?

      Yeah, I would've thought sticking it in a box on a pole would work just as well, and it doesn't need an expensive bus to sit around. What do the people do when the bus is doing its job of transporting people?

      1. rcomm

        Re: How does the driver get home?

        I thought that too at first, but the original idea was to give kids on the bus for two hours a way to do "homework," and not have wasted the time. The revelation to the plan is that when the bus goes off-duty it's parked in an area with lots of people to allow those folks access.

    2. Dave 32

      Re: How does the driver get home?

      I'm guessing that the driver drives their private car to where the bus is parked, makes the bus trip, deposits the bus back at the trailer park, and then takes their private car back home.

      Or, maybe some of the bus drivers live in the trailer parks?

      1. Queasy Rider

        Re: How does the driver get home?

        It disappoints me, Dave, that people here have to even ask the question when your answer is so blindingly obvious. Have a withering up vote. Think people, think.

  15. Dan Wilkie

    As an alternative since solar power doesn't seem an issue - it would seem the perfect place for something like a Pi based Commotion mesh shirley?

  16. JeffyPoooh

    I'm curious about the LTE mobile data plan

    How do they get a mobile data plan that permits zillions of GB per month?

    Such an approach is literally impossible in Canada. Hundreds of kids sharing one 'free' LTE account would result in somebody getting The Largest Invoice In History. The bill would be in the many millions of dollars.

    If this is all explicable and affordable, then the entire 'last mile' issue is solved (!!!). Just use affordable and unlimited LTE.

    When we used Mobile Data to be our ISP, it was limited to 5 GB per month. $100/month, and extremely limited use.

  17. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    This being a technical publication and all, I'm surprised at a pretty obvious detail that is completely missing. How does the router in the bus connect to the Internet? Satellite? 3G/4G? Magic?

    1. Down not across Silver badge


      I know the idea of actually reading the article before commenting is shocking....

      To address the issue, the district looked at a valuable resource it already had: school buses equipped with LTE antennas and Wi-Fi hotspots were already able to provide access to students on their daily commutes.

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