CoSN broadband

Cost is still keeping districts from boosting broadband speeds

New CoSN report reveals that while many districts have high-speed access, funding issues keep others from achieving connectivity goals

Cost remains the biggest hurdle for schools trying to increase broadband connectivity speeds for students, according to CoSN’s 2017 Annual Infrastructure Survey.

The majority of school districts–85 percent, to be exact–meet the Federal Communications Commission’s short-term goal for broadband connectivity of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students, according to the survey.

The survey collected feedback from 445 large, small, urban, and rural school district leaders nationwide and examines the current state of technology infrastructure in U.S. K-12 districts.

More than half of the districts reported that none of their schools meet the FCC’s long-term broadband connectivity goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students, according to the survey.

Forty-seven percent indicated at least some schools are meeting the FCC’s long-term connectivity goal, with 16 percent of districts indicating they are achieving the long-term goal in every school.

Next page: A positive trend in broadband costs

For the first time, survey results show fewer than one-tenth of districts are paying $50/Mbps or more for their internet or WAN. This is a very positive trend, the report notes, as fewer and fewer districts are paying very high monthly costs per megabit.

Software as a service (SaaS) is an accepted practice in districts, with 94 percent indicating that they use some type of cloud-based software system.

The overwhelming reason why districts are moving to the cloud is to avoid “time-intensive installation/maintenance of software,” with 82 percent of districts indicating that is the case.

Rural districts comprise nearly 60 percent of all districts that receive one or no bids for broadband services. This lack of competition remains a significant burden for rural schools.

Approximately one-third of districts do not use consortia buying for E-rate purchases despite their availability. This has doubled from last year’s 17 percent mark.

School systems are spending more and more on security–nearly half (45 percent) spend more than 10 percent of their budget on network security. This marks an increase from 19 percent of school districts in 2016.

More than one-third of districts continue to experience one day or more of unplanned network downtime every year, and have experienced such an outage each year since 2014.

“E-rate remains the premier federal program supporting connectivity in our nation’s schools. We commend the great work our nation’s schools are doing in providing broadband access to their students, and the critical role of E-rate in making it happen,” says Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association.

“The gains our schools have made in connectivity are beyond commendable, hindered if only by the reality of ongoing expenses. Demand for broadband and connectivity is something that will only continue to grow, and this report highlights the realities schools do and will continue to navigate when it comes to supporting their learners’ connectivity needs in a constantly evolving environment, with shifts to the cloud, personalized learning, and more devices.”

The FCC has used past findings to modernize and expand funding of E-rate. This year’s report was conducted in partnership with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, MDR, and Forecast5 Analytics.

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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Laura Ascione
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