In early November of 2015, CoSN (in partnership with AASA and MDR) released the results of their 3rd Annual E-Rate and Infrastructure Survey regarding wireless connectively in schools throughout the United States. The survey’s respondents hailed from a diverse mix of school sizes and locations, but common themes and challenges were identified for all ed-tech leaders, including:
Nearly half of school districts identified the cost of recurring expenses as the greatest barrier to robust connectivity. More than 1/3 of districts said that capital or upfront expenses prevent schools from strengthening their Internet connectivity. While this remains the biggest challenge for school leaders, connection costs have improved in recent years. In 2015, 36% – compared to 27% in 2014 – of schools indicated their monthly cost per Mbps for Internet connections was less than $5.
Speed and Capacity
Alarmingly, nearly a quarter of all school systems have only reached 10% of the Federal Communications Commission’s short-term broadband connectivity goal of 100 Mbps per 1000 students. Additionally, 1 out of 3 school systems are not using the current wireless standards and 25% of school systems report their education networks are down for at least 3 unplanned days. However, the good news is that more than 70% of school system leaders are using lit fiber transport types for WAN operations – a significant one-year increase from <50% in 2014.
Lack of competition
Nearly half of school systems indicated that competition (or lack thereof) is a growing problem, especially in rural school systems. More than 1/3 of school systems have only one, or no, broadband Internet provider. This lack of competition is at the heart of high prices. In addition, it makes it nearly impossible for many school systems to establish a redundancy plan.
Based on the survey results, school districts are making progress with their education networks, but still have a ways to go. The complexity and costs associated with a robust wireless infrastructure remains a huge problem for many schools across the country. There is a definite opportunity for resellers to gain the recurring income associated with network infrastructure if they can help schools tackle some of these issues.