Education leaders expect school internet needs to increase over the next several years, highlighting the need for increased bandwidth and resources to support growing digital learning demands on school networks.
The ninth annual E-Rate Trends Report from Funds For Learning shows that the federal E-rate program is still critical in establishing broadband connectivity for schools and libraries. The 2014 E-rate update will expire in 2020, and stakeholders are urged to advocate for the program in order to ensure it can continue to serve schools and libraries and help close connectivity gaps.
“Every year, we read through hundreds of responses that showcase how E-rate is mission critical for schools and libraries,” says John Harrington, CEO of Funds For Learning. “It’s vital to identify what’s working and what improvements must be made, and to deliver that feedback directly to the FCC.”
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The survey also includes open-ended responses from applicants.
“[E-rate] is a tremendous program that is necessary for the instructional benefit of all students and educators across the United States. Without it, these individuals would suffer immensely and potentially cause our nation a huge disadvantage when it comes to 21st century skills,” according to comment number 218.
“As a small rural school district, our options for internet, fiber, etc. are limited. E-rate helps us tremendously with our internet, building-to-building connectivity, and network equipment that are necessary in today’s education environment. Since state funded programs…no longer exist, districts must spend more district money [on] projects. It would be difficult for our district to fund everything needed without the benefit of E-rate,” says comment number 41.
School internet remains critical to students’ success, both academically and in building the schools they’ll need to succeed in college and the workforce.
Here are 6 key findings about digital learning and school internet needs:
1. Digital learning continues to explode. 88 percent of applicants expect bandwidth needs of schools and libraries to increase in the next three years.
2. Barriers to internet still exist. 82 percent of applicants agree that insufficient internet access to home of students or library patrons is significant issue in their community.
3. If permitted to share school internet access off-campus at no additional cost to the E-rate program, 83 percent of responding applicants say they would do so.
4. Wi-Fi remains mission-critical. 88 percent of applicants feel Wi-Fi is extremely important in fulfilling their mission. 79 percent of applicants in FY18 cited the same need, showing a consistent trend in Wi-Fi access to support digital learning in schools and libraries.
5. More applicants say school internet should extend to school buses–in 2018’s survey, 58 percent of applicants believed school bus internet should qualify for E-rate support. This year, 66 percent of applicants say the same. “Our community would greatly benefit from access to Wi-Fi on buses and school-provided internet at their homes. This would allow for a greater flexibility in the use of online resources and blended learning. Extending the classroom to anywhere our students have a device is key to success in a 21st century learning environment,” according to comment number 274.
6. E-rate funding is considered critical to school internet connectivity goals, but not all applicants feel they can depend on the funding each year. Ninety-four percent say E-rate is vital, but only 84 percent say their organization can depend on the funding each year.
Participation in this year’s report was a record high, with 1,763 applicants from every state and territory completing the survey, representing about 8 percent of all school and library applicants nationwide.