CoSN Infrastructure Survey Highlights Broadband Progress and Troubling Gaps

School districts nationwide are struggling with the costs of building out the high performance, reliable networks needed to support the digital transformation envisioned by President Obama’s ConnectEd initiative. According to CoSN’s newly released E-Rate and Infrastructure Survey report, the FCC will need to significantly increase the E-Rate cap if ConnectEd connectivity goals are to be reached.

The survey found that cost of Internet and Infrastructure remain the top barriers to increasing Internet connectivity in school districts. The cost of connectivity is particularly challenging in certain rural districts: 10% of rural districts pay over $250 per Mbps per month, at times up to a staggering $800 per Mbps.

The CoSN survey was developed in partnership with AASA (The School Superintendents Association) and education researchers at MDR as part of the Smart Education Networks by Design (SEND) initiative sponsored by leading technology companies: Cisco, Comcast, ENA, Ipswitch, and Presidio

The SEND initiative is developing resources to support districts dealing with a number of challenges identified by the survey:

  • Capacity - 68% of all districts said that not a single school in their district could meet the FCC’s long-term connectivity goal of 1,000 Mbps (1 Gbps)
  • Reliability - 34% of districts reported that their Internet failed for 3 or more days a year. Shockingly, 5% of the districts experienced 30 or more days of downtime, a rough equivalent of almost one day per week during the school year.
  • Anytime/Anywhere access - Anytime/anywhere access for students is becoming an issue that schools need to address, yet most districts have not yet begun to address issues of home and off campus access. 82% of districts reported that they are not providing any type of off campus services for their students at this time.

Many leading CoSN districts report 50-60% year over year growth in network capacity demand due to more devices and heavier use of the internet.

This trend supports network buildout to the FCC bandwidth targets, yet only 41% of districts report that all of their schools meet the FCC’s short term goal of 100Mbps/1000 students and 27% of districts still report that not a single school in their district can meet this short term goal.

Districts are taking on the challenge of creating learning environments powered by technology that will effectively prepare students for college, career, citizenship, and life in our increasingly connected world. These districts require financial support and resources to help plan for the exponential growth in demand on network performance. The SEND initiative is focused on strategies for building these high-performance school networks, while the necessary increases to the E-Rate cap have the potential to turn district aspirations into meaningful educational realities for students all across America.