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An Introduction to
Sponsored Service

Learn how states and school districts can
purchase broadband for unconnected students

Learn how sponsored service enables school districts or states to purchase home Internet connections for students who lack broadband subscriptions.

K-12 Bridge to Broadband: Overview

Effective remote learning starts with a home Internet connection and a dedicated learning device for every student. That’s why many school districts and states have decided that they need to provide wired or wireless Internet connections to students who are not connected at home. But, the first step is identifying which students need to be connected.

Partnerships with Internet Service Providers are helping to quickly answer this question. In partnership with EducationSuperHighway, regional and national internet service providers are launching programs to codify this model through the K-12 Bridge to Broadband initiative.

With data sharing agreements in place, school districts or states simply share student addresses with their local Internet Service Providers, who will confirm if they currently serve this address and if they can serve the address within 10 days. A Request for Proposal (RFP) is then issued to procure wired or wireless Internet connections for the students without home access, streamlining the process of providing a cost-effective and reliable high-speed broadband connection for remote learning. By covering the cost of the service, school districts, states, and their partners remove the financial burden from families.

Key Questions

1

What is sponsored service?

2

Why might procurement leads consider sponsored service as a connectivity solution?

3

How can my state or school district set up sponsored service?

4

How do families sign up for sponsored service?

5

How can my state or school district work with ISPs to exchange data and determine student connectivity status?

6

What does home setup and installation look like for families

7

What types of online learning are supported by sponsored service?

8

Next Steps

What is sponsored service?
Sponsored service is when a procurement lead acts as a single-payer and handles the payment of Internet bills to ensure connectivity remains continuous for students. This model emerged during the shutdown of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when school districts began partnering directly with broadband providers to ensure students could access remote learning.

This type of agreement can occur after a school district determines which families lack Internet, or when a school district partners with providers in their area to initiate a data exchange in order to understand which families lack Internet.

Every sponsored service offering may have their own requirements (for example, a minimum contract length or a minimum number of users), so a diligent vetting of contract agreements and service terms is always recommended.

Some sponsored service offerings have specific eligibility criteria, the most common criteria being that families be eligible for at least one public assistance program, such as the National School Lunch Program, housing assistance, Medicaid, SNAP, or SSI.


Why might procurement leads consider sponsored service as a connectivity solution?
  • Sponsored service takes the financial burden of paying for Internet off of low-income families.
  • Residential broadband provides a more stable and reliable connection than alternative connectivity solutions such as mobile hotspots and is more cost-effective.
  • It empowers districts to directly impact families and their community in a time of great need.

How can my state or school district set up sponsored service?
First, use the K-12 Bridge to Broadband lookup tool to identify the Internet Service Providers in your area that offer sponsored service. Then, initiate contact with the providers to learn more about their offerings. Begin the process of establishing data-sharing agreements to ensure the privacy of your student information before sharing any household address data. With a firm understanding of connectivity needs at the household level, issue an RFP to establish your project goals, timeline, and needs and share with the provider community to request competitive bid proposals. After evaluating your bids, choose the best option or options that make sense for your families and execute contracts with the chosen ISP(s).

After determining eligibility, procurement leads can share a unique promo code provided by Comcast with qualified families to use on their application during the sign-up process.

The procurement leads code, once validated, will ensure that the approved family’s Internet Essentials billing will be pushed to the procurement lead account.


How do families sigh up for sponsored service?
The process for sharing sponsored service to your students and their families depends largely on the Internet Service Providers you have contracted with to deliver service.

For example, if Comcast is your sponsored service provider, procurement leads share a unique promo code provided by Comcast with qualified families to use on a required application they fill out in order to sign-up. The promo code, once validated, will ensure that the approved family’s billing will be pushed to the procurement lead account. Families receive a self-installation kit after their application is approved.

If you are working with Spectrum, families do not need to complete an application to receive service. As long as they are on the list of addresses provided in the order to Spectrum, they will receive a package containing the necessary equipment to self-install and begin using their Internet service.

It’s likely that other ISPs have their own unique processes required to manage the sign-up process for families. Work closely with your chosen provider to ensure the process is as simple and minimally invasive as possible.


How can my state or school district work with ISPs to exchange data and determine student connectivity status?
One of the primary value-adds of working directly with ISPs is the ability to determine student connectivity status and serviceability in advance of initiating a formal procurement process and starting outreach to families, enabling a more targeted and streamlined approach. How it works:

  • The procurement lead establishes a data privacy agreement with the ISP.
  • The procurement lead sends the ISP list of student addresses.
  • ISP reviews list for existing customers and notes them on the list.
  • ISP reviews list for serviceability and notes them on the list.
  • ISP returns finalized list of addresses to Procurement Lead.
  • Procurement lead notifies families and includes information for how they can sign-up or opt-out, if necessary.
  • Procurement lead confirms the final address list and issues an RFP to begin the formal procurement process and encourage competitive bidding.
  • After the winning bidder is chosen, the procurement lead signs a contract agreement with the ISP(s).

What does home setup and installation look like for families
Home setup and installation vary depending on the Internet Service Provider you have selected, and the equipment families will need to receive in order to begin service.

In many cases, ISPs will offer to have self-installation kits shipped directly to each family, but delivery times may vary depending on availability and location. The process to install equipment usually doesn’t require more than finding a location in the home with an electrical outlet to plug in the modem device.



What types of online learning are supported by sponsored service?
As with all connectivity solutions, bandwidth depends on the type of service being offered, the number of connected devices, and the types of online applications being used. During the RFP process, be sure to note information about your intended remote learning modalities to help ISPs understand how your requirements might impact the bandwidth needed to deliver a quality experience.

Next Steps
For more information and to find participating Internet Service Providers, visit K-12 Bridge to Broadband. You can also check out additional resources to communicate sponsored service to families.

For more information and to find participating Internet Service Providers, visit K-12 Bridge to Broadband. You can also check out additional resources to communicate sponsored service to families.