Higher-speed Internet access has been provided to an additional 20 million U.S. K-12 students over the past two years, according to EducationSuperHighway, a non-profit organization dedicated to upgrading Internet access in every public school classroom in the nation.
Looking ahead to further progress in its first annual ¨2015 State of the States¨ report, EducationSuperHighway highlights that 38 governors have pledged to complete the mission by helping to ensure that Internet connectivity is improved for the 21 million students attending public schools where speeds are sub-standard.
In its 2013 SchoolSpeedTest, EducationSuperHighway found that only 30 percent of public K-12 schools met the FCC’s minimum Internet access goal of 100 kbps per student. That meant that 40 million students lacked the broadband connectivity needed to really take advantage of digital learning, the non-profit notes.
The situation has improved significantly with the help of the federal government’s E-rate program, which made an additional $2.5 billion per year in broadband funding available, EducationSuperHighway noted. With funding secured, EducationSuperHighway has been working with governors, state agencies, school district leaders, service providers and other private and public sector partners to provide public school teachers and students opportunities for digital learning.
According to EducationSuperHighway, less than 300,000 K-12 public school teachers in the 2013 report had the Internet access and tools they needed to leverage digital learning in public schools. Today, some 1.7 million have the broadband connectivity they need.
School Broadband Report
That said, there’s a long way to go before EducationSuperHighway’s job is done. The non-profit points out that 23 percent of U.S. public school districts still don’t meet the FCC’s minimum Internet access goal. That translates into 21 million K-12 students who lack the digital education resources so important to earning a livelihood, raising families and contributing to community health and vitality in the 21st century.
Furthermore, what’s considered the minimum Internet access that young students need today won’t be sufficient in coming years. According to EducationSuperHighway, the typical public school district’s network bandwidth will have to triple over the next three years to keep up with growing demand.
EducationSuperHighway is focusing on and working with governors and others to overcome three main barriers to bridging public schools’ connectivity gap:
- Provide every school with access to fiber. States can leverage the $1 billion of federal funding available over the next three years through the FCC to provide every school across the U.S. with access to fiber. To meet federal connectivity goals, 92 percent of schools will need a fiber optic connection.
- Make bandwidth affordable. A continued focus on affordability, with a goal of lowering the cost of Internet access to $3 per Mbps, can enable another 12 million students across the country to utilize technology in the classroom.
- Provide every classroom with robust Wi-Fi. With over $3 billion of FCC funding for Wi-Fi connections available over the next four years, every school district should be able to upgrade its Wi-Fi to enable one-to-one digital learning in its classrooms.