Wednesday, January 9, 2019

School Districts Make Gains in Wi-Fi and Broadband

WASHINGTON DC — Increased investment from the E-rate program’s modernization are helping to improve school Wi-Fi and broadband connectivity, according to the new 2018-2019 Annual Infrastructure Report from CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking), the professional association for school system technology leaders.

In a survey of districts of all sizes nationwide, the report found that 69 percent of school system leaders are “very confident” in their wireless network’s ability to support one device per student. Ninety-two percent of school systems are meeting the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) short-term goal of broadband connectivity (100 Mbps per 1,000 students in a district), as well as making strides in the FCC’s long-term goals.

The results underscore why school systems need strong networks and robust, affordable broadband access to fully leverage 21st century educational opportunities. This year’s report was conducted in partnership with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, MDR and Forecast5 Analytics.

Learning is Going Digital
“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,” said 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.”

According to the report, school districts are still facing significant infrastructure challenges. Due to minimal broadband competition, many rural school districts do not have affordable broadband access. Fewer than 10 percent of districts nationwide report that every student has access to non-shared devices at home, limiting their ability to complete homework assignments outside of school – i.e., the “homework gap.” Furthermore, cybersecurity is a top challenge for technology leaders, and only 12 percent of districts have a dedicated network security employee to address cyberthreats.

Additional key findings from the national report follow:

Broadband Momentum – Complementing the short-term gains, this year, more than one-third of districts achieved the FCC’s long-term goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students for all schools – up nearly 100 percent from last year.

The Cost Barrier – Costs of monthly-recurring, ongoing expenses continue to top the list of barriers to increased district connectivity. However, just 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. What’s more: Three quarters of districts report paying less than $5 per Mbps for their internet – compared to 60 percent in 2017.

Omnipresence of Cybersecurity – More than one-third of districts allocate 10 percent or more of their technology budget 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,” said 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. AASA is very pleased to once again, partner with CoSN on this important survey, and we thank the superintendents and other administrators for participating.”

This year’s infrastructure survey posed 59 questions to 386 respondents from 386 urban, suburban and rural districts nationwide. The number of questions has nearly doubled since the survey began in 2013, reflecting the increased complexity of infrastructure systems now commonplace in school districts.

To read the full report, please visit: cosn.org/infrastructure

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Thanks to BBC Wires (see source)

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