As of 2016, 88% of public school districts are meeting the FCC minimum connectivity goals, an increase from 77% in 2015. This dramatic improvement in connectivity has leveled the playing field for students regardless of their affluence level or geographic locale and is catalyzing the adoption of digital learning across the country. See EducationSuperHighway’s 2016 State of the States report to learn more.
Increasing adoption of 1:1 learning models and other educational software has made technology essential to the 21st century classroom. As these digital learning opportunities grow, schools’ bandwidth needs grow by 30-50% per year.
This dramatic improvement in connectivity has leveled the playing field for students regardless of their affluence level or geographic locale and is catalyzing the adoption of digital learning across the country.
For nearly every school district in America, fiber is the only technology that can affordably deliver fast network speeds today and continue to scale cost-effectively to meet the growing bandwidth needs of the future. Unfortunately, access to fiber is not universal, and, not surprisingly, gaps in fiber access disproportionately affect schools in more remote areas, where districts are three times more likely to report a non-fiber connection for both Internet access and Wide Area Network (WAN) services. Today, as schools strive for higher speeds to deliver equal educational opportunities for all students, access to fiber is critical.
Recognizing the importance of bringing schools up to speed in the Internet age, President Obama announced the ConnectED initiative in June 2013, establishing a goal to connect 99% of students to high-speed broadband within five years. The goals coincide with the dramatic increase in the availability of new digital learning tools, as well as the growing number of connected devices in the classroom. Each component of a district network needs to be upgraded to minimum bandwidth standards to handle this, and must be designed to be able to scale as bandwidth needs increase.
In response to the forecast growth in demand, the Federal Communications Commission modernized the E-rate program to allow it to continue to serve the evolving needs of schools and libraries and provide students with access to the bandwidth they need. Among the changes, the FCC has increased the total amount of funding available for broadband. Recognizing the importance of fiber, the E-rate program has also updated the eligibility rules for the next four years to maximize the fiber options available to schools, so they can obtain the most cost-effective and scalable solutions for both today and the future. You can learn more about E-rate modernization and its impact on options for school districts in the E-rate section of this toolkit.
E-rate modernization is also a unique opportunity for school districts that are already on fiber. By equalizing the funding for types of fiber services eligible for E-rate through the program updates, school leaders now will have more options available to their school districts to improve their connectivity in an affordable way.
With E-rate data now publicly available, school leaders can understand and compare solutions for bringing optimized connectivity to their schools. Using tools such as Compare & Connect K-12, schools have more ability to explore service provider and bandwidth options to get sustainable and scalable services to meet their needs in the long term.
High-speed broadband can unlock the power of technology to personalize learning for students, empower teachers, connect parents, and ensure equal educational opportunity. Getting started on the path to upgrading all of your schools to fiber is a critical first step.
Learn more about the districts we’ve worked with that are upgrading.