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America continues to make extraordinary progress in narrowing the K-12 digital divide. Overall, 39.2 million students, 2.6 million teachers, and 73.9 thousand schools are now achieving the minimum connectivity goal that gives students equal access to digital learning opportunities.

However, 6.5 million students are on the other side of the digital divide without access to high-speed Internet. This Connectivity Gap is particularly wide in the 1,587 rural K-12 schools that don’t yet have the infrastructure necessary to revolutionize the way teachers teach and students learn.

Awareness

When we began our work in 2012 few were aware of the slow Internet speeds in the majority of America’s classrooms. Using the SchoolSpeedTest we raised national awareness of the issue and shined a light on the Connectivity Gap. But, there is still work to be done. We now must ensure that state and district leaders make network upgrades a priority.

Expertise

Network design, implementation, and maintenance require specialized skills that many school districts cannot afford. Most districts do not have experts on staff to manage increasingly complex network infrastructure. In fact, the typical district IT technician is required to support five times as many devices as their counterparts in corporate America, leaving little time for network management. This causes school networks to operate below their potential and makes it difficult to align a school’s broadband access to its learning objectives.

 

Affordability

Over the last year, the median cost of Internet access declined by 30% from $7.00 to $4.90 as service providers leveraged improvements in broadband infrastructure technology to deliver significantly more bandwidth to school districts for their budgets. 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.