School Infrastructure Report: Strong Gains in Broadband Connectivity, But Challenges Persist

Washington, DC
Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Majority of school districts today (85 percent) fully meet the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) short-term goal for broadband connectivity of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students. However, recurring costs remain the most significant barrier for schools in their efforts to increase connectivity, CoSN revealed today in its 2017 Annual Infrastructure Survey Report.
 
Collecting feedback from 445 large, small, urban and rural school district leaders nationwide, the fifth annual survey examines the current state of technology infrastructure in U.S. K-12 districts. 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. 
 
Additional key findings from the report include: 
 
  • 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.
 
  • Forty-seven percent indicated at least some schools are meeting the FCC’s long-term connectivity goal, with a minority of districts (16 percent) indicating they are achieving the long-term goal in every school.  
 
  • 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 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,” said 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.”
 
This year’s infrastructure survey posed 64 questions to the 445 district respondents. Answers were collected in September and October of 2017, with one authorized response per district. Since the responding districts vary each year, the authors cannot provide direct year-by-year comparisons. However, the survey results provide general indicators into the infrastructure changes that are occurring in U.S. school systems.
 
To read the full report, please visit: cosn.org/infrastructure2017.
 
About the Organizations
 
CoSN is the premier voice and resource for K-12 education technology leaders nationwide. Serving more than 13 million students in America’s school systems, CoSN provides education leaders with the tools and relationships to leverage technology and advance modern, engaging learning environments. Visit CoSN.org to find out more about CoSN’s focus areas, annual conference and events, advocacy and policy, membership, and the CETL certification exam.
 
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.
 
MDR is a full-service school and community engagement partner. A division of Dun & Bradstreet, MDR is a different kind of integrated marketing services agency that combines rich data with unique digital, creative, and branding capabilities. We’ve been connecting brands through data and marketing services to educators, youth, and parents for nearly 50 years. Reach targeted audiences through our database and digital communities SchoolData, WeAreTeachers, WeAreParents, and School Leaders Now.
 
Forecast5 Analytics provides interactive data analytics solutions to schools covering a spectrum of organizational performance areas. The Forecast5 platform includes cloud-based business intelligence software, an analytics platform that connects a district’s disparate student datasets into one system, a financial forecasting engine, interactive data visualizations and a Google Maps-based tool for geospatial projects. More than 1,200 school districts across the country are using Forecast5 tools to maximize their data insights.