Broadband Equity

Landmark Study Calls for Increased Bandwidth for At-Home Learning

The current FCC definition of home broadband — 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds — is inadequate for at-home learning, according to researchers who conducted a first-of-its-kind study of district data for students engaged in remote learning.

The Student Home Connectivity Study, conducted by CoSN, the Consortium for School Networking, with funding from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, looked at data from 13 (mostly large) school districts representing more than 750,000 students. It found that activities requiring high bandwidth, such as watching and sending video, are prevalent in remote learning and that such activities require much faster broadband at home.

Among the findings:

  • More than 85% of network traffic in remote learning is used for video;

  • More than 70% of students live in a household with other students;

  • Greater upload speeds are required for synchronous video, such as when using videoconferencing apps;

  • 92% of students use WiFi rather than a wired connection;

  • Students often use personal devices in addition to school-issued devices, upping bandwidth requirements.

As a result, the researchers recommended that adequate home broadband be redefined as 25 Mbps for download speeds per student, rather than per household, with additional bandwidth for other factors, such as other members of the household using up bandwidth for non-educational activities.

It also recommended 12 Mbps upload speeds per student. According to the report: “Most broadband connections offer different speeds for downloading versus uploading. In the past, uploading data was not as common a task as it is today; therefore, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) established a household minimum standard of 25 Mbps for download speed and 3 Mbps for upload speed. However, 3 Mbps is not an adequate upload speed to support distance learning for an individual student, let alone multiple students in a household.”

The report also recommended that , ISPs receiving federal support should remove data caps and “provide unlimited data for home learning connections without throttling.”

We’ll have more coverage of the Student Home Connectivity Study in the coming days. In the meantime, the full report is available at cosn.org.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).


Whitepapers