Today, we released our third annual report on the state of connectivity in America’s public schools. Since EducationSuperHighway began, creating digital learning opportunities for all children has motivated us to ensure that digital equity is a nationwide reality in our education system. We have long believed that measuring progress is critical to this mission.
So where do we stand? According to 2017 data from the Federal Communications Commission:
- 39.2 million students and 2.6 million teachers have reached or exceeded the minimum recommended connectivity level for digital learning. This is up from just 4 million students in 2013.
- 6.5 million students remain on the wrong side of the digital divide, still lacking access to high-speed Internet.
- 92% of these students (6 million) would have the connectivity they needed for digital learning if their school districts simply had access to the same pricing that many of their similarly-situated peer districts are already paying for Internet access.
- 2,049 mostly rural K-12 schools are cut off from digital learning without critical fiber infrastructure.
- 88% of our schools have robust Wi-Fi in their classrooms, leaving 10,000 schools still in need of upgrades.
In short, our research on 2017 school connectivity reveals that while exceptional progress has been made to close the gap, too many of our students are still using dial-up speeds of the past to learn the skills they’ll need tomorrow.
Our Nation’s Promise to K-12 Students
In 2013, our nation made an important promise to close the connectivity gap and level the playing field for children throughout the U.S. The promise was that all public school students, regardless of their location, age, or socioeconomic background, would have high-speed broadband access in their classrooms within 5 years.
Across party lines and geographic boundaries, governors, state and district leaders, schools, and service providers have thoughtfully leveraged the FCC’s $3.9-billion-per-year E-rate program resources to fulfill this promise.
In fact, America has made so much progress connecting our public schools that we’re almost there, to the finish line. But there are still 6.5 million students that need our help. It’s important that we act now to upgrade school connectivity for those who still lack it.
Here are three steps we can all take to close the connectivity gap by 2020:
- Bring more affordable Internet access to school districts not meeting the minimum connectivity goal. This can be accomplished in large part by leveraging price transparency tools to help them get the same deals as their peer districts.
- Bring fiber infrastructure to the 2,049 schools that lack it. This will enable these schools to meet current and future bandwidth demands, and can be funded largely or entirely with E-rate resources.
- Bring Wi-Fi to the remaining 10,000 schools that do not have it. E-rate’s Category 2 program allocated $150 per student for Wi-Fi, so the funding to make this goal a reality is available through 2020.
Why Digital Equity Matters
Removing technological limitations from our nation’s classrooms is a powerful means to unlock our children’s potential for years to come. The implications of digital equity for America’s economy, infrastructure, worldwide competitiveness, and innovative potential are boundless. That’s why it’s critical that we as a nation make the final push towards digital equity in every school, for every child.
To see how your state is delivering on the promise to connect our nation’s students, read the full 2017 State of the States report.