Network Essentials: Understanding the Basics of School District Networks

An icon of a network connecting to schools
Robust broadband that fully supports digital learning requires that each part of a district’s network be working in unison and at full capacity. If one or more of the pieces of the network is broken or underperforming, then high-speed broadband and therefore rich, digital learning content cannot reach students’ devices.

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There are three prerequisites to improving school connectivity:

1. Every School Needs Access To Fiber

Every school needs a fiber-optic (or alternative scalable bandwidth) connection. It is the most cost-effective way to deliver high-speed connectivity. Districts with fiber connections on average have 10x more bandwidth.

2. Bandwidth Must Be Affordable

The cost of broadband access has continuously decreased since 2013. From $22 per Mbps in 2013, the cost of broadband today is at $3.26 per Mbps. However, affordability still remains a challenge for school districts as there continues to be significant variation in what districts pay for Internet access, especially for higher-bandwidth circuits.

3. Every Classroom Must Have Robust Wi-Fi

Wireless technology allows for connectivity to reach all the way to students’ devices and enables the rich digital learning that can transform our education system. The FCC has allotted $150 per student over the course of 5 years from 2014-19 totaling to over $5B in available funds to upgrade internal networks in every classroom.

The first step in any successful network upgrade is to understand the basic structure of a school district’s network. With a good grasp of the fundamentals of a district’s network setup, school district leaders will be better prepared to communicate with their technology teams and network vendors to accomplish successful network upgrades for their schools. The diagram below provides a high-level overview:

Typical school district network graphic
Now take a closer look at a network within an individual school building—this is the Local Area Network or LAN.

School Local Area Network

School Local Area Network Graphic
With this basic network layout knowledge at hand, the next step is to plan for the upgrade—
Check out our accompanying blog that helps you plan for your school districts broadband budget and estimate the amount of bandwidth your network needs to meet your digital education goals.

For more information on planning your broadband network upgrade explore our free tools and resources.

Other blogs in this series
1 – Plan for your school districts broadband budget
2 – Planning for your future bandwidth needs
3 – Securing buy-in for your upgrade
4 – Successful Procurement

More To Explore

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EducationSuperHighway & Massachusetts connect residents to affordable broadband

Broadband activities are revving up in the Bay State. The timing is not a coincidence: with President Biden signing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law in November 2021, and NTIA subsequently releasing Notices of Funding Opportunity which outline the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, Digital Equity Act, and Enabling Middle Mile Grant Infrastructure program in May 2022, states and localities find themselves in a new era of funding opportunities to finally close the digital divide. To connect the unconnected to affordable broadband, EducationSuperHighway has teamed up with organizations across Massachusetts to take advantage of this opportunity in three separate areas, described below.

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