K-12 Report: Affordability, Adequate Funding Biggest Technology Barriers

Other District Leadership Challenges Revealed Across Ed Tech in New CoSN Survey
Washington, DC
Thursday, October 16, 2014

Washington, DC (October 16, 2014) – New results from CoSN’s (Consortium for School Networking’s) 2nd Annual E-rate and Infrastructure Survey reveal troubling gaps in U.S. school districts broadband and technology infrastructure. The report, released today, identifies affordability and adequate funding as the most significant barriers to delivering sufficient Internet connectivity and transforming the learning environment in schools. This chief hurdle mirrors the major barrier identified in the 2013 survey. Other challenges identified include lack of capacity to ensure the network reliability needed for online assessments and instruction and grossly inadequate networks in the nation’s rural school districts.

Conducted in partnership with AASA (The School Superintendents Association) and MDR, the groups collected data from K-12 school leaders and technology directors nationwide. The report is intended to inform the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in its forthcoming decisions regarding the E-rate program’s long-term funding needs and focus.

“This survey boldly underscores that our nation has a funding and bandwidth crisis,” said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “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.”

“Today’s CoSN and AASA survey is a clear illustration of not only the historical success of E-rate in transforming the role of connectivity in schools, but also the critical need of ensuring the program remains viable. AASA is a strong supporter of E-rate,” said Daniel A. Domenech, Executive Director, AASA. “Our survey indicates the demand for high-speed Internet is growing, a need that E-rate remains uniquely positioned to address. 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. The results of this survey affirm what we have long advocated: The E-rate program remains deeply underfunded, a resource gap that – absent a permanent funding increase – will work to widen connectivity gaps and undermine E-rate’s proven success.”

According to the survey, more than 80 percent of districts indicated that the E-rate program’s current funding levels are not meeting their needs. This is the second year that districts noted the significant gap between E-rate funding and requirements. Only 9 percent of the districts have adequate bandwidth to fully meet the demand for online assessments and digital content anticipated over the next 18 months.

Other key findings of the survey include:

High Costs & Adequate Funding
  • The cost of connectivity is higher in rural districts than in urban / suburban. For example, 10 percent of rural districts pay over $250 per Mbps per month and at times the cost is a staggering $800 per Mbps. By contrast, 37 percent of the rural districts pay $10 or less per Mbps per month while 49 percent of urban / suburban districts pay $10 or less per Mbps.
  • Capital, upfront non-recurring costs are the second biggest barrier to increasing robust Internet connectivity in school districts. 
  • Sixty percent of districts reported that funding is the biggest obstacle to meeting the FCC’s short-term goal of 100Mbps / 1,000 students. 
  • Nearly two-thirds of the districts reported using consortium buying services for bandwidth / Internet access – up from 44 percent last year.
  • WAN costs in suburban and urban districts are significantly more expensive due to the need for individual connections to each building in a district.
  • More than one-half of districts reported that the FCC’s decision to phase out E-rate support for voice and other services in July 2014 will have significant negative fiscal impact.
Lack of Capacity
  • More than one-third of the districts reported having three or more days of down time a year for Internet services.
  • Forty-five percent of school districts indicated they do not have the capacity to deploy a 1:1 initiative.
  • One-quarter of districts reported that not a single school in their district could meet the FCC’s short-term goal of 100Mbps / 1,000 students.
  • Districts struggle to achieve reliable Internet connectivity, with 60 percent of districts indicating they are using only one Internet provider.
The Last Mile Challenge
  • When asked for the number of providers responding to E-rate request for services, 6 percent of districts received no responses and 26 percent received only one response. Eighty percent of large districts (with more than 50,000 students), and 59 percent of urban / suburban districts received three or more bids for E-rate services, compared to only 35 percent of rural districts.
  • Rural districts have slower internal data connections, with 80 percent of urban / suburban districts reporting typical connection between data switches and router at 1Gbps or greater compared to 65 percent of rural districts. 
  • Wi-Fi in rural districts is much less likely to meet current technical standards. Only one-quarter of rural districts have Wireless Access Points (WAPs) that support the most current standards (802.11n/ac) – a rate that is less than one-half that of large districts, where 59 percent have WAPs that meet the 802.11n/ac standard.

“We are pleased to again partner with CoSN on this important survey, which clearly shows the continued need to improve the technology infrastructure in America’s schools so that the power of digital content, mobile devices, online assessments and personalized learning can be realized. MDR has monitored and reported on technology trends for four decades as part our mission to provide timely, research-driven market intelligence to education stakeholders,” Kathleen Brantley, Senior Director, EdNET Insight.

The survey responses derived from 47 states (with Delaware, Rhode Island, Utah and the District of Columbia not participating). Over 1,000 district leaders and technology directors contributed to the survey, with 584 full responses. Survey respondents were representative of urban, rural and suburban districts as well as large, medium and small districts. 

The survey is part of CoSN’s Smart Education Networks by Design initiative and is made possible by our partners Cisco, Comcast, ENA, Ipswitch, and Presidio.

To read the full results, please visit: http://cosn.org/cosns-second-annual-e-rate-and-infrastructure-survey.

About CoSN
CoSN is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. The mission of CoSN is to empower educational leaders to leverage technology to realize engaging learning environments. Visit cosn.org or call 866-267-08747 to find out more about CoSN’s focus areas, annual conference and events, advocacy and policy, membership and the CETL certification exam.

About AASA
AASA, The School Superintendents Association, founded in 1865, is the professional organization for more than 13,000 educational leaders in the United States and throughout the world. AASA advocates for the highest quality public education for all students, and develops and supports school system leaders.

About MDR
MDR is the leading U.S. provider of education information and integrated marketing services that helps organizations connect with educators in K-12, higher education, public libraries, and early childhood. MDR's EdNET Insight is the K-12 education industry's premier marketing intelligence and consulting service, combining the proven power of research and analysis with recognized industry experts to deliver an insightful, comprehensive view of the trends and influences that are shaping the education market today-and tomorrow. For more information on EdNET Insight, visit www.schooldata.com/mdrednetinsight.asp.

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