Strong Gains in School Broadband Connectivity, But Challenges Remain

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The majority of school districts today (85 percent) fully meet the Federal Communications Commission’s short-term goal for broadband connectivity of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students. However, recurring costs remain the most significant barrier for schools in their efforts to increase connectivity. Collecting feedback from 445 large, small, urban and rural school district leaders nationwide, the fifth annual survey examines the current state of technology infrastructure in US K-12 districts. (The FCC has used past findings to modernize and expand funding of E-rate.)

Additional key findings from the report include: 

  • More than half of the districts reported that none of their schools meet the FCC’s long-term broadband connectivity goal of 1 Gbps per 1,000 students.
  • Forty-seven percent indicated at least some schools are meeting the FCC’s long-term connectivity goal, with a minority of districts (16 percent) indicating they are achieving the long-term goal in every school.  
  • For the first time, survey results show fewer than one-tenth of districts are paying $50 / Mbps or more for their Internet or WAN. This is a very positive trend as fewer and fewer districts are paying very high monthly costs per megabit. 
  • Software as a service (SaaS) is an accepted practice in districts, with 94 percent indicating that they use some type of Cloud-based software system.
  • The overwhelming reason why districts are moving to the cloud is to avoid “time-intensive installation/maintenance of software,” with 82 percent of districts indicating that is the case. 
  • Rural districts comprise nearly 60 percent of all districts that receive one or no bids for broadband services. This lack of competition remains a significant burden for rural schools.
  • Approximately one-third of districts do not use consortia buying for E-rate purchases despite their availability. This has doubled from last year’s 17 percent mark.
  • School systems are spending more and more on security – nearly half (45 percent) spend more than 10 percent of their budget on network security. This marks an increase from 19 percent of school districts in 2016.
  • More than one-third of districts continue to experience one day or more of unplanned network downtime every year – and have experienced such an outage each year since 2014.

The report was conducted in partnership with AASA, The School Superintendents Association, MDR and Forecast5 Analytics. 

CoSN's 2017 Infrastructure Survey Report