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As federal efforts to connect students to high-speed internet make headway, districts identify their top challenges

internet-connectivityFunding remains the largest and most-cited obstacle when it comes to updating schools’ infrastructure and installing high-speed broadband internet access, according to a survey from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).

CoSN’s second annual E-rate and Infrastructure Survey, conducted with AASA and MDR, reveals that 58 percent of school districts said monthly recurring and ongoing expenses are their biggest barrier to connectivity.

In all, 60 percent of surveyed districts said funding is their biggest challenge when it comes to meeting the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) short-term goal of 100 Mbps/1,000 students.

(Next page: What the survey reveals about one-to-one readiness)

Twenty-seven percent of districts said not a single school in their district could meet the FCC’s short-term goal, and 69 percent of districts said not a single school could meet the FCC’s long-term goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students.

Eighty-four percent of responding districts said the E-rate’s current funding levels don’t meet their needs.

Of all the districts surveyed, just 9 percent said they have enough bandwidth to support online assessments and digital content.

Forty-five percent of school districts said they don’t have the ability to deploy a one-to-one initiative, but according to the report, this is a 12 percent improvement from last year’s survey.

“This survey boldly underscores that our nation has a funding and bandwidth crisis,” said Keith Krueger, CoSN’s CEO, in a statement about the survey. “The FCC’s short- and long-term goals for connectivity will not be reached until there is a substantial increase in funding to meet the unmet needs of school districts across the nation, particularly in rural districts.”

The survey also reveals that rural districts have slower internal data connections, and their Wi-Fi is “much less likely to meet current technical standards.”

“Based on this new survey, we know that school systems across the country lack broadband capacity, particularly in rural areas, and high costs remain the greatest impediment to improving capacity. This survey data highlights the harsh reality that we are failing to deliver adequate, affordable, reliable, high speed broadband access and internal connectivity to classrooms across the country,” the authors note in the report.

“As we move forward with the programmatic changes adopted in July, the need to modernize the program to transform connectivity in our classrooms, including closing connectivity and affordability gaps that persist in our most challenged areas, has never been more important,” said Daniel A. Domenech, AASA’s executive director.

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