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Does your district’s broadband measure up?

By Laura Ascione, Managing Editor, Content Services, @eSN_Laura
October 23rd, 2017

Free tool lets school districts compare broadband connections, pricing to close the connectivity gap

A free tool from nonprofit EducationSuperHighway is intended to help district technology leaders compare broadband and connectivity information with other districts nearby and across the nation.

Compare & Connect K-12, which launched in beta in early 2016 and is now fully launched and available, displays public E-rate application data and lets users explore bandwidth speeds and compare broadband prices with school districts in a specific region or in any state across the country.

The goal is simple: transparency regarding school district broadband and bandwidth pricing data in an effort to help school districts get more bandwidth for their broadband budgets.

Schools need high-speed broadband and ubiquitous wi-fi to ensure all students have equal access to digital learning opportunities, advocates and stakeholder groups say.

Providing robust bandwidth today and ensuring scalability for future classroom needs is critical to enabling teachers and students to take full advantage of digital learning opportunities. While significant progress has been made, 21 million students across the country still lack the broadband they need to take advantage of digital learning.

School districts using the beta version of the Compare & Connect K-12 online tool have achieved significantly more bandwidth, often at little to no additional cost. Great Falls Public Schools in Montana leveraged Compare & Connect K-12 to compare the price the district was paying for its bandwidth with that of neighboring school districts. Armed with this knowledge, Great Falls was able to stay with its existing provider, negotiating within its long-term contract for 330 percent more bandwidth with only an 8 percent increase in monthly cost.

“Compare & Connect K-12 gave us unprecedented insight into other school districts’ cost to bandwidth ratios, which helped us discover that we could get much more bandwidth at nearly the same cost,” said Tom Hering, Director of IT at Great Falls Public Schools. “We leveraged this data to upgrade our bandwidth to 1,000 megabits per second (Mbps), enabling more digital learning opportunities in the classroom to better prepare our students for today’s increasingly technology-centric world.”

Compare & Connect K-12 also acts as a resource for service providers, who are critical to finishing the job of upgrading America’s K-12 schools. Service providers can use Compare & Connect K-12 to identify school districts inside and outside of their service areas that need upgrades. Leveraging this information, service providers can identify opportunities to help schools upgrade within their existing broadband budgets and work to close the connectivity gap. Compare & Connect K-12 also recognizes service providers that are helping their school district customers meet the minimum connectivity goals in 100 percent of their districts and enables other service providers to pledge to do the same.

Enhanced Compare & Connect K-12 features in the full version include:

Revamped Comparison Tools: Comparison tools, leveraging maps and filters, enable school districts to view how their broadband service and prices equate to those of neighboring school districts, as well as other school districts across the state.

Directory of Service Providers: Useful data that allows school districts to find service providers that are offering better prices in their states and negotiate for a better price or more bandwidth.

Interactive State Maps: Detailed state maps provide state leaders with a comprehensive resource to search and compare connectivity across school districts – helping them to make sure that their school districts are meeting high-speed connectivity requirements and to bring access to school districts that have fallen behind.

Direct Link to RFPs (E-rate Form 470): Service providers can easily view school districts that have issued request for proposals in order to submit competitive bids for service.

“Armed with the knowledge of the services that other school districts can obtain with similar budgets, we’ve seen technology directors significantly increase their bandwidth, usually without an increase in cost, enabling school districts to make the most of their budgets,” said Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway. “Every student deserves equal access to reliable high-speed Internet access for digital learning, and Compare & Connect K-12 is helping school districts get one step closer to achieving that goal.”

To access Compare & Connect K-12, visit http://www.compareandconnectk12.org/ and type in the name of a state or school district to get started.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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