Study: Making Broadband Connections More Equitable

Educators have access to tons of digital resources from online learning management systems to real-time data analytics tools, but none of these tools will work without a high-speed broadband connection. A new report from the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) examines what policy makers and school leaders need to know to make informed decisions on their broadband needs.

By the 2023-2024 school year, SETDA recommends that "districts to have the ability to implement the architecture and to provision enough bandwidth to ensure adequate user experiences during peak utilization."

Their recommendations are:

  • Small Districts – At least 2.8 Mbps per user with a minimum of 300 Mbps per district
  • Medium Districts – At least 2 Mbps per user
  • Large Districts – At least 1.4 Mbps per user

"Today's students need equitable, robust bandwidth access to ensure that engaging, personalized learning experiences are being implemented for all. Skills based on dynamic digital instructional materials, online simulations, coding, and content creation are essential to a student's success for today and into the future. Connectivity is a key variable to making this happen," said Candice Dodson, executive director of SETDA, in a statement.

When crafting policies or district standards, SETDA recommends five ideas that leaders should consider:

  • Technology and Pedagogical Approaches: Leaders must focus on academic goals and leverage technology to support student learning experiences in preparation for college and/or careers in the digital age.
  • Digital Access and Equity: Stakeholders must to consider how to create equitable student access to broadband and devices on and off campus. Every child deserves personalized, student-centered learning experiences to prepare for life and work in the global economy.
  • Planning Infrastructure for the Future: Schools and districts should strategically plan for reliable, high speed networks to support sustained, seamless access to the internet for the implementation of administrative tools, the Internet of Things and teaching and learning activities, without disruption.
  • Building Networks for the Future: Administrators and technology leaders need to examine the levels of digital learning implementation and the administrative and security services relying on the network.
  • Policies and Funding: The federal government should continue to expand federal funding options for state, regional and broadband networks, increase the bandwidth capacity for schools and districts across campuses and establish community access points at anchor institutions. State governments need to create policies, networks and purchasing options to increase broadband access in schools.

The report also examines how individual states are working to close the broadband gap through creating statewide networks, new STEM opportunities and establishing regional networks to help rural districts.

The full report is available on SETDA's website.

About the Author

Sara Friedman is a reporter/producer for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe covering education policy and a wide range of other public-sector IT topics.

Friedman is a graduate of Ithaca College, where she studied journalism, politics and international communications.

Friedman can be contacted at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @SaraEFriedman.

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