Cost remains broadband roadblock for many schools
- With two-thirds of K-12 students expected to be using a minimum of two devices each by 2019, the Consortium for School Networking's 2016 Annual Infrastructure Survey highlights the amount of infrastructure investment still needed to ensure equity, according to EdTech: Focus on K-12.
- While the portion of schools meeting the FCC's minimum internet bandwidth requirements has risen from 19% to 68% since 2013, costs are still a hurdle — though the number of schools overspending on internet and WAN connections has halved to 16% since 2014, and districts can further stretch their funds with proxy servers, WAN acceleration, or by joining group buying consortiums.
- While the potential lack of reliable broadband access outside of school (i.e., the "homework gap") is also a top concern for administrators, 63% of district leaders reported that they don't have strategies in place to address that connectivity or lack thereof.
As the data highlights, devices aren't going away anytime soon. As they inch closer to being the primary method of delivery for curricular resources, districts must ensure their schools are capable of handling the load via upgrades to broadband infrastructure. But with many strapped for funding or affordable options — especially those in low-income communities that may also be in hard-to-serve rural locations — administrators must also ensure lawmakers are well-informed as to the importance of funding needed to meet those demands.
For many schools, the FCC's E-Rate program has been a welcome addition to funding these necessary upgrades — and it's never too early to start preparing an application for those funds to stay ahead of the pack in February. The "homework gap" has also become a topic of conversation along those lines in recent years, with Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel in particular advocating for the gap's closure. Republican Chairman Ajit Pai, likewise, has touted the E-Rate program to Congress as "worth fighting for" and suggested more focus on better connecting rural schools and districts, so perhaps there's room for compromise on the homework gap's place in funding as devices become more prevalent.
- Ed Tech: Focus on K-12 High Costs Block Broadband Inside and Outside of Schools
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