School wi-fi and broadband connectivity are showing improvement, due largely to an increased investment from the federal E-rate program’s modernization, according to a new report from CoSN.
The results indicate strong improvements, but they also highlight areas where districts continue to struggle. They also underscore why school systems need strong networks and robust, affordable broadband access to fully leverage 21st century educational opportunities.
“One trend is clear: Learning is going digital. Improved wireless access and broadband connectivity means more schools are better able to meet the modern technology needs of students and teachers,” says Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “These strides demonstrate the impact of the E-Rate modernization, as well as state investments in rural broadband. Policymakers and local leaders should continue to make these infrastructure investments over the long run to support schools in every community.”
Here are a few key findings from the 2018 Annual Infrastructure Report, which surveyed districts of varying sizes:
1. The survey reveals that 69 percent of school system leaders are “very confident” in their wireless network’s ability to support one device per student.
2. Ninety-two percent of school systems are meeting the Federal Communication Commission’s short-term broadband connectivity goal of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students.
3. But despite progress, many districts still face significant infrastructure challenges, as the report notes. Many rural school districts lack affordable broadband access, and fewer than 10 percent of districts nationwide say every student has access to non-shared devices at home, which widens the homework gap by limiting students’ ability to complete homework.
4. Cybersecurity remains a struggle for IT leaders, with only 12 percent of districts having a dedicated network security employee to address cyberthreats.
5. Funding continues to top the list of barriers district technology leaders face as they try to increase district connectivity. But this year, only 50 percent of respondents cited recurring cost as a top barrier, making 2018 the first year in the survey’s history that ongoing connectivity costs did not get named by a majority of respondents as a major hurdle.
6. Three quarters of districts report paying less than $5 per Mbps for their internet, compared to 60 percent in 2017.
7. More than one-third of districts allocate 10 percent or more of their technology budgets to network security. A majority of districts (52 percent) indicated that they are proactive or very proactive in maintaining their network security. Meanwhile, 23 percent of respondents report their districts are reactive or very reactive.
“No one can argue that the digital revolution is having a critical impact on reshaping the education industry. It begins with E-rate – the single-largest source of education technology funding for our nation’s schools and libraries,” says Daniel A. Domenech, executive director, AASA, The School Superintendents Association. “We are proud that innovative technological solutions are taking place in our schools to maximize teaching and learning excellence. We know that the demand for broadband and connectivity will only continue to grow.”
This year’s report was conducted in partnership with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, MDR and Forecast5 Analytics.