School Districts Make Gains in Wi-Fi and Broadband Connectivity; CoSN 2018-2019 Annual Infrastructure Report

Survey of School Leaders also Emphasizes Challenges Concerning Rural Broadband Access, the "Homework Gap" and Cybersecurity
Washington, DC
Friday, January 4, 2019
 
According to CoSN’s new 2018-2019 Annual Infrastructure Report, increased investment from the E-rate program’s modernization are helping to improve school Wi-Fi and broadband connectivity.
 
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.  
 
“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
 
CONTACT
Michael Kaplun, The Fratelli Group for CoSN, 202-822-9491, mkaplun@fratelli.com
 
About the Survey Partners
 
CoSN (the Consortium for School Networking) is the premier professional association for school system technology leaders. CoSN provides thought leadership resources, community best practices and advocacy tools to help leaders succeed in the digital transformation. CoSN represents over 13 million students in school districts nationwide and continues to grow as a powerful and influential voice in K-12 education.
 
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 equitable access for all students to the highest-quality public education 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. They have been connecting brands through data and marketing services to educators, youth and parents for 50 years. MDR’s database and digital communities, including EdNET, SchoolData, WeAreTeachers, WeAreParents and School Leaders Now enable brands to connect with educators.
 
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 1,500 school districts across the country are using Forecast5 tools to maximize their data insights.
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