Survey: Lack of Classroom Broadband, E-Rate Funding Are Top Issues

The Consortium for School Networking (CoSN), in partnership with MDR (Market Data Retrieval), today released the final results of its first E-rate and broadband survey on the challenges K-12 schools nationwide face with growing demand of digital learning environments. With more than 460 responses from 44 states, 43 percent of districts said none of their schools meet the broadband goal of 100Mbps of Internet access per 1,000 students today. The 100Mbps goal has been advocated by the State Education Technology Directors Association (SETDA) and the LEAD Commission Blueprint, as well as reinforced by President Obama’s ConnectED initiative.

The survey, which was conducted from August to September, seeks to inform critical choices the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) should make in the coming months regarding the E-rate program.

Nearly one-third of those surveyed said they did not apply for some of the E-rate program’s funding due to anticipated shortfalls in funding. Bandwidth was identified as the most important priority for the E-rate program, followed by wireless in schools, as well as school Local Area Network (LAN) connectivity and district Wide Area Network (WAN) connectivity.

The results also revealed that average school network cannot support broadband due to poor and outdated internal connections / wiring, backbone in the school LAN and lack of sufficient wireless access points:

  • 57 percent of districts do not believe their school’s wireless networks have the capacity to currently handle a 1:1 deployment.
  • Half of the wiring in school buildings is older, slower wiring (Cat5 and Cat3) that will not carry data at broadband speeds.
  • 26 percent of districts are using slower copper or 2.3 percent wireless backbones in their school LAN.

Other key survey findings include:

  • Only 57 percent of elementary schools and 64 percent of secondary schools have all classrooms fully equipped with wireless Internet connectivity.
  • 45 percent of districts participate in consortium buying, including 37 percent for Internet bandwidth, and overall nearly 44 percent of districts participate in more than one purchasing cooperative.
  • Rural schools pay six times more for connections than other schools / school systems. Likewise, very large school districts (+50K students) spend over three times more for WAN than other schools / school systems.
  • Schools need both financial support for ongoing monthly costs AND cost of capital or upfront / nonrecurring expenses covered by E-rate if we are to achieve broadband in schools. According to the survey, ongoing monthly costs (79 percent agreement) and cost of capital or upfront / nonrecurring expenses (59 percent agreement) are the two biggest barriers for schools.

To read the full report, visit: