New Research Finds Extending School, Library Networks Key to Connecting Households

The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition and New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI) released a new report and case studies demonstrating the effectiveness of connecting low-income students and households to the internet by extending school, library, and other “anchor institution” networks into the community. The case studies show that both large and small school districts, including Council Bluffs (Iowa) and Fresno (California), are using a variety of wireless technologies and partnerships to permanently close the homework gap. During the pandemic, an estimated 15 to 17 million students were cut off from remote learning due to a lack of home connectivity. In response, SHLB, OTI and other advocates petitioned the Federal Communications Commission to allow off-campus use of services funded by E-Rate and permit local schools and libraries to use these funds to directly connect student households to affordable broadband. The case studies describe how changes in wireless technology allow anchor institutions to become hubs for extending affordable internet service to the surrounding community, often by partnering with the private sector. Lead researcher, Dr. Raul Katz of Telecom Advisory Services, concludes that building broadband networks “to-and-through” anchor institutions is often the most cost-effective and financially sustainable option to connect students in rural and underserved areas, challenging a narrative that claims this approach is too costly.

The "To and Through" Opportunity