Working in partnership with Icomera, ENGIE North America has rolled out a connectivity solutions pilot to provide four California school districts with Wi-Fi-enabled school buses to serve students and their families. ENGIE’s ‘Student Wi-Fi Zone’ helps to bridge the digital divide and provide reliable, long-distance learning solutions, free of charge, while maintaining social distancing. These buses provide fast Internet within a 300-foot radius for those affected by California’s mandated shelter-in-place order.
“In response to COVID-19, this solution is especially important because of the urgency around building equitable access to remote learning for California school districts – a story that we know is true of school districts across the U.S.” said Courtney Jenkins, vice president and general manager for ENGIE North America. “Once we identified this opportunity to support our education partners’ critical need, we were able to procure, install and provide free Wi-Fi access within days. That’s a remarkable testament to the collaborative efforts between the school districts and ENGIE North America. All four school districts will continue to use the ‘Student Wi-Fi Zone’ for summer sessions.”
Nearly 22 percent of U.S. households have no access to Internet on a regular basis. During the shut-down of typical Internet access points due to COVID-19 closures – including public libraries in addition to school sites – lack of reliable access to Internet has become an even more significant barrier to new distance learning expectations. The school districts using ENGIE’s mobile connectivity solution include the Aromas-San Juan [San Benito County], North Monterey County [Monterey County] and John Swett [Contra Costa County].
According to Aromas-San Juan Superintendent Michele Huntoon, “We have close to 25 percent of our students who do not have access to the Internet. Our area has multiple areas of ‘white spaces’ that are dead zones for Internet access. We are thrilled to establish this partnership with ENGIE to bring a much-needed service to our students. The service will reduce the digital divide and address equity among our students.”
Icomera’s mobile connectivity solution is an integral part of ENGIE’s Connectivity-as-a-Service (CaaS) offering. While the system can provide additional services in the future to help parents track buses, and the districts with fleet management, for now the system is tailored to address the needs of the student population. The Wi-Fi units provide a secure installation capable of blocking inappropriate sites and optimizing access across multiple cellular providers.