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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
K-12 Bridge to Broadband enables states or school districts to submit anonymized student addresses and receive back a list of unconnected addresses and the ISPs that can connect them for remote learning.
The program is built around a data exchange platform that enables states and school districts to partner with an ISP to identify unconnected student households and optimize their use of federal funding.
With data sharing agreements in place, states and school districts share de-identified student addresses with ISPs using our secure data exchange platform. ISPs confirm if they currently serve each address or if they can serve each address, resulting in a complete dataset that identifies unconnected student households.
States or school districts can then use this actionable data to procure Internet services on behalf of their students or make families aware that they may be eligible for federal subsidy programs.