Free Tool to Supply Broadband Speed and Pricing Data to Districts
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Later this year a free tool will appear to help school IT organizations get internet speed and pricing information on K-12 broadband connectivity across the United States using publicly available data from the federal Schools and Libraries Program (E-rate). "Connect K-12" will be produced by Connected Nation with the help of EducationSuperHighway and managed by E-rate specialist Funds For Learning.
Connected Nation has long sought to bring high-speed broadband into rural and other underserved areas of the country.
The project is being viewed as a legacy initiative. A few months ago, EducationSuperHighway announced that because 99 percent of schools are now on fiber and delivering at least 100 Kbps of bandwidth for every student, the classroom connectivity gap was officially "closed." And because its mission was met, it also declared that it would close as well. Since its founding in 2013 the nonprofit had monitored availability of high-speed internet for digital learning in K-12. In a recent "State of the States" report Founder and CEO, Evan Marwell, said that the organization would spend the next year "helping as many of the last one percent of schools and students get connected to high-speed broadband," and then it would close its doors. That's expected to happen in August 2020.
According to the two organizations, the new tool will provide the details that school district and state leaders need to upgrade their bandwidth to the FCC's 1 Megabit per second (Mbps) per student goal. Officials said the tool would also report national and state connectivity trends to keep the E-rate program focused on the prize: continuing to support school broadband access.
"For years, we've worked to help schools bring instructional technology and better connectivity to the classroom, but Connect K-12 will enable us to provide key data and insights that will help state and local leaders take informed action to improve school connectivity in districts across the country," said Tom Ferree, head of Connected Nation, in a statement. "All of us...are honored and excited to work with EducationSuperHighway in launching this tool and building upon their impressive legacy as they prepare to sunset later this year."
Marwell, pointed to "strong leadership, actionable data and partnerships at the state and national level" as the key ingredients for increasing school broadband access. "As a leader in the broadband and public-sector space, we feel confident that [Connected Nation] will continue to work in partnership with state leaders and schools in an effort to ensure every child has access to the opportunities digital learning can provide."
Funds For Learning, a consultancy that specializes in helping districts access the federal E-rate Program, was selected as the technology partner to manage the data readiness and software elements of the tool.
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.