Broadband and Digital Equity Top Concerns Among IT Leaders
- By Dian Schaffhauser
broadband off-campus has nearly doubled in K-12 between 2020 and
2021. While 49% of schools didn't provide off-campus services in
2020, just 5% are still in that position. The most popular delivery
method, by far, is the deployment of district-run hotspots. Seven in
10 schools use that approach, compared to 17% in the prior year.
Three in 10 districts work with their local communities to provide
WiFi hotspots, a practice that was adopted by only 19% in 2020. And
more than a quarter (27%) provide home access through free and
subsidized programs, compared to 10% the previous year.
surfaced in the latest "Ed
Tech Leadership Survey Report," undertaken by the
for School Networking (CoSN). The survey collected
information from 390 members between November 12, 2020 and April 1,
2021. CoSN noted that a disproportionate share of responses — 50% —
came from suburban districts, although they actually account for less
than a quarter (23%) of districts. Urban districts made up 19% of
responses and account for 6% of schools; rural districts accounted
for 18% of responses, while making up 53% of the total number of
The survey found
that concerns about digital equity are on the rise. Nearly every
respondent said he or she had heightened worries about students' home
access to devices and the internet, to support remote learning. In
fact, for the first time in the history of the survey, digital equity
was cited as a top concern, ranking third after challenges related to
home internet connections that were too slow for multiple users and
connections that were too slow for livestreaming.
On a positive note,
the last year has seen a boon in schools meeting the Federal
Communications Commission's long-term broadband goal of 1 Gbps per
1,000 students — an aspiration that was first set in 2014.
Currently, nearly two-thirds of districts (61%) have met the goal,
compared to 49% in 2020 and 36% in 2019.
However, while those
results may show progress, the target has moved in the intervening
years. "They may fall short of broadband needs of 2021 and
especially for those districts that relied on streaming of
instruction during the pandemic to connect teachers with their
students, as well as student collaboration," the report noted.
More than a third of
respondents said they'd need to upgrade components of their IT
infrastructure to support the FCC goal. For 37%, that would mean new
firewall technology; and for 35% it would be other internet
infrastructure components. More than half of districts (57%) said
they'd need new gateway routers and/or new content filters, either in
the short-term or long-term, while 54% would require an upgrade to
Most of the network
traffic generated by remote learning was dedicated to video (whether
synchronous or asynchronous). And nearly every district (94%) said it
faced challenges with video conferencing. While the top hurdle was
bandwidth, mentioned by 66% of respondents, security breaches also
posed difficulties for 43%, as did privacy (38%).
the objectives for student home bandwidth. While the
old goal was 25 Mbps download and 3Mbps upload per household, the new
goal is at least 25 Mbps for download and 12 Mbps for upload per
has rightly become a top concern during the pandemic, with
cybersecurity continuing to be at the forefront of priorities of
school system IT leaders," said Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN, in a
statement. "Our annual survey allows CoSN to identify key trends
like these so that we can better serve our members, inform
policymakers and assist school districts in their digital
The complete report
is openly available on
the CoSN website.
About the Author
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.