Education K-12 Connectivity Is On The Rise, But There Is Still A Long Way To Go

Author: Kelley Donald - MarCom/Friday, August 25, 2023/Categories: Business Internet

Most students are back to school across the country, and there are signs of pre-pandemic normalcy. But millions of K-12 students still fall behind their peers because of an ongoing digital equity and homework gap. Life is anything but ordinary for students who don’t have access to the technology they need.   

Recovering from the learning loss carries serious weight. Research continues to depict the long-term implications of digitally disconnected students. The lack of K-12 Internet access affects academic aptitude, derailing many career prospects and ultimately lowering lifetime career earnings. For students to succeed in the classroom, home and life, reliable connectivity is not an option. It's a necessity. 

Technology plays a vital role in creating learning opportunities for our students. Every classroom needs access to media-rich educational tools and learn how to use them effectively.


According to the Report on School Connectivity produced by the nonprofit Connected Nation, since 2020, 25% of school districts nationwide are meeting or surpassing the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) bandwidth goal of 1 Mbps per student. 

Also, according to the report, 59% of school districts met the FCC benchmark in 2021 compared to 47% in 2020. But more than 27.6 million students still lack enough bandwidth to support their digital learning needs in the classroom.  

In addition, the report found a significant disparity in the prices districts paid for Internet access. The median cost per megabit has decreased from $11.70 in 2015 to $1.39. Yet 1,703 districts spend more than $5 per megabit, and 746 school districts still pay more than $10 per megabit. 

Although this data is encouraging, more action is needed to increase K-12 Internet access and connectivity for students, said Emily Jordan, vice president for Connect K-12, an online resource for information on K-12 Internet service. One possible solution is to continue improving the FCC's E-rate program that helps subsidize school connections and Internet infrastructure, she said. 

Kentucky’s Success Story 

While many districts across the country are still struggling, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) presents an encouraging story. The Kentucky K-12 Digital Readiness survey is sent annually to every school district. According to 2023 survey results, they have increased the number of students with access to digital learning devices, as well as the number of staff members to help teach students how to use the tools. 

According to KDE Chief Information Officer and Associate Commissioner David Couch, "Our education technology programs and support teams statewide have been enormously understaffed for years. But this year, we have ensured promising growth in technical support and digital learning coach positions. It is a good sign, as it is vital to have support for both to ensure the success of our students." 

"Kentucky is the pioneer and the national leader in most areas of education technology, especially in cloud-based computing. We use 20 times more Internet bandwidth than the rest of Kentucky's state and local county governments combined," he added. 

"During these past three years, the pandemic has increased the workloads on all our people, systems and significant services. Yet the education tech teams in our schools and districts have thrived while continuing to create and implement new projects," he said. 

Although Kentucky has succeeded, is the FCC's bandwidth goal high enough to support the growing demand for student devices in schools? That is the critical question that still remains unanswered. 

How Much Bandwidth Do I Need? 

The FCC-adopted bandwidth goals provide an excellent foundation on which to start your planning and accurately assess your network bandwidth. Here are a few considerations that will help: 

Assume That Bandwidth Needs Will Significantly Continue To Grow 

The FCC forecasts a significant increase in Internet traffic needs over the next four years. It is consistent with the increasing demand in schools as they implement digital learning. As you enter into a multi-year contract with your service provider, it's critical to consider the total bandwidth needed over the contract's lifetime. You must ensure that your service provider can and will help you accurately predict a cost-effective scaling plan over the contract's lifetime. 

Remember To Include A Forecast For All Users and Locations 

Remember, there are many school technology users, including teachers administrators and school staff. They need to be included when planning your school district's bandwidth requirements. There could also be classrooms and other locations such as bus barns, workshops and security cameras that could require connectivity and need to be factored into the bandwidth projections. 

Include Concurrency When Planning For Web Access 

Not all students from every school are working on a network simultaneously. But, to create the required design, the total bandwidth needs should include the number of possible concurrent users on the network instead of the total number of potential users. 

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Adds New Requirements On Neworks 

Each device connecting to the network adds additional load. If students, educators and administrators use multiple devices during the day, such as personal devices like mobile phones and tablets, your network may need additional bandwidth to handle this traffic. 

Size Your Bandwidth for Peaks and Not Averages 

To run your digital curriculum effectively, ensure you have enough capacity to accommodate events and the critical times most students use learning tools simultaneously.  

Add bandwidth Or Extra Padding to Your Calculation 

The EducationSuperHighway’s recommended bandwidth for schools adds a 20% bandwidth buffer to the peak demand estimate to cover other applications during the most used hours. 

Monitor Your Network 

The only way to know if your network is most cost-effectively meeting the needs of your students is to understand usage. With simple network monitoring, you can ensure you aren't over- or under-provisioning. 

How Fast Will, My Bandwidth Needs Grow? 

Your bandwidth growth rate may vary based on how many users and devices you include today and how those numbers could change over the next five years. It’s also possible that your bandwidth needs could grow much quicker than in a previously primarily media-rich district. Your upgraded plan should include an estimate of your bandwidth requirements for three to five years and options for increasing bandwidth during that time frame. School districts should plan for Internet bandwidth growth at 50 to 100% annually. 


Many school districts are facing grave difficulties with the necessary funds to provide a robust telecommunications infrastructure and an ongoing sustainability program for K-12 Internet access. But to ensure the future success of our students, it will take collaboration from the private and public sectors to get the job done. 

For more information, contact us at We are here to help you develop the right solution for your school district that will give your students the Internet access they need. 



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