In today’s digital age, understanding mobile and broadband speeds is crucial for school administrators and educators to ensure students have access to adequate internet connectivity. This white paper aims to clarify key terms, discuss the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) recent changes to minimum speed requirements, and explore how school districts can use this information to address the digital divide.

Key Terms

  • Upload speed in kbps: Kilobits per second (kbps) is a unit of measurement for data transfer speed. Upload speed refers to the rate at which data is sent from a user’s device to the internet. Higher upload speeds are important for tasks like video conferencing and sharing large files.
  • Download speed in kbps: Download speed is the rate at which data is received by a user’s device from the internet. Higher download speeds are crucial for streaming video, downloading files, and browsing the web.
  • Latency: Latency is the delay between a user’s action and the response from the network. Lower latency is essential for real-time applications like video calls and online gaming. High latency can cause noticeable delays and poor user experience.

FCC Minimum Speed Requirements

In March 2024, the FCC raised the benchmark for broadband speed for the first time in nearly a decade:

  • Fixed broadband: 100 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload (previously 25/3 Mbps)
  • Mobile broadband: 35 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload (new category)
  • Schools: 1 Gbps per 1,000 students and staff (previously 500 Mbps)

The FCC also set a long-term goal of 1 Gbps download and 500 Mbps upload for fixed broadband. These new standards will be used to determine if broadband is being deployed in a reasonable and timely manner.

Mobile vs. Broadband Speeds

Mobile broadband relies on cellular networks to provide internet access to devices like smartphones and tablets. It offers portability but may have lower speeds and higher latency compared to fixed broadband. Fixed broadband, such as cable, fiber, or fixed wireless, provides internet access to a specific location. It generally offers higher speeds, lower latency, and more reliability than mobile broadband.

Addressing the Digital Divide

School districts can use the FCC’s new speed benchmarks to assess the adequacy of internet access for students and staff. By identifying areas with insufficient broadband coverage, districts can prioritize resources and partnerships to improve connectivity.The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) provides a Digital Equity Dashboard that helps districts visualize and analyze data related to the digital divide. The dashboard includes information on broadband access, device availability, and digital literacy. By leveraging this tool, administrators can make data-driven decisions to promote digital equity.


Understanding mobile and broadband speeds is essential for school administrators and educators to ensure students have the necessary internet access for learning. The FCC’s recent changes to minimum speed requirements provide a framework for assessing connectivity needs. By using tools like the CoSN Digital Equity Dashboard, districts can identify gaps and take action to bridge the digital divide.

Author: John Parker, VP of Data Science, Innive Inc. 
Digital Equity Dashboard Developer

Published on: June 25, 2024

CoSN is vendor neutral and does not endorse products or services. Any mention of a specific solution is for contextual purposes.

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