Most K-12 Schools Have Access to Broadband, But Far Too Few Have Access to Sufficient Bandwidth

Students using mobile devicesK-12 schools have made great strides in increasing connectivity, but the vast majority still don’t have the necessary bandwidth to make everyday digital learning a reality.

Thanks in large part to a bipartisan coalition comprised of the FCC, state governors, district officials, and internet service providers, more of today’s schools have broadband internet access than ever before.

As of earlier this year, 44.7 million students had access to high-speed internet at school, a near-tenfold increase over the 4.7 million students who had access when the coalition was formed in 2013. To put that number in perspective, 98 percent of school districts now have high-speed internet access (defined as at least 100 kbps per student).

However, as edtech continues to mature and digital learning becomes increasingly imperative, school districts are looking toward the next broadband benchmark: internet speeds of 1 Mbps per student. While 100 kbps per student allows a few classes at a time to use digital learning tools, with broadband speeds of 1 Mbps per student, every student in every classroom in a school would be able to use digital learning tools throughout the entire day.

As things stand, only 28 percent of districts have achieved internet speeds of 1 Mbps per student, meaning nearly three-quarters of districts lack the broadband capacity necessary to place digital learning at the core of their curricula.

How High-Speed Internet Supports Digital Learning

As teachers experiment with innovative ways to engage students with technology, schools’ bandwidth demands inevitably rise. Eventually, digital learning becomes the district standard, not the exception.

Most districts have observed this effect, and have continued to expand their bandwidth accordingly. Of the districts that have already achieved 100 kbps per student, two-thirds have made at least one further upgrade since surpassing the initial threshold. As a result, in districts that have already surpassed 100 kbps per student, the median per student bandwidth currently sits at an impressive 524 kbps.

That said, almost three-quarters of all school districts and 85 percent of the nation’s 1,000 largest districts have yet to achieve 1 Mbps per student speeds. To keep pace with the rapid proliferation of classroom technology, districts must make a concerted effort to increase their schools’ bandwidth.

Connecting Every Student

To handle the bandwidth demands of today’s digital learning environments — and to provide room for future growth — schools need broadband infrastructures that are scalable and technologically up-to-date. In most cases, this means upgrading to fiber.

Fortunately, many districts are located in regions where fiber connectivity is both affordable and readily available. While making the switch is simply a matter of taking advantage of the options at their disposal, far too many district tech directors struggle to navigate the E-rate application process and, as a result, fail to receive administrative approval for much-needed upgrades.

For these districts, partnering with an educational networking expert like Epiphany Management Group provides them with the assistance they need to achieve their target bandwidth. If your district is close to reaching its connectivity goals but seems to have plateaued, Epiphany can help you take the final steps toward a truly transformational network.

But, if like most districts, you remain far from achieving 1 Mbps per student, Epiphany can be an invaluable partner in designing and executing an entire network overhaul. Regardless of where your district stands, it’s never a bad idea to have a team of experienced IT professionals by your side as you adapt to the modern, digital-first educational paradigm.

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