Broadband Communities

NOV-DEC 2017

BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.

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94 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2017 BROADBAND APPLICATIONS can find out where to send invitations to bid. "is is where school districts struggle most," Marwell says. "ey don't know who to call." In addition, EducationSuperHighway has contracts with nearly 30 states to inform service providers about upcoming bids in those states and persuade them to bid. CONNECTING THE LAST HALF MILLION About 100,000 of the 6.5 million students live in school districts that receive favorable pricing but are located in areas where bandwidth is more expensive than the national average. For those districts, time is on their side. Most could pay for sufficient broadband with their current budgets if bandwidth costs fell by 10 percent – "and that's less than we've seen each year," Marwell says. Median bandwidth costs for schools have fallen by 78 percent over the last four years. Finally, about 400,000 students live in districts that simply have not allocated enough funds for broadband. On average, these districts spend 90 percent less per student on internet access than districts that meet the minimum connectivity goal. Surprisingly, they are not necessarily the poorest districts – in fact, they have slightly fewer financial constraints than their better-connected peers. To meet the minimum connectivity goal, these districts need to invest an average of an additional $1.07 per student per year. Often, budgets are too low because districts don't know how much bandwidth they need; many don't understand that they haven't allocated an appropriate amount of funds. "We need to work with them to get more budget," Marwell explains. "It's an education challenge." KEEPING UP WITH BANDWIDTH NEEDS e FCC set a short-term connectivity goal for schools of 100 Kbps per student, which is sufficient for access to online testing and text-based digital learning. However, as online learning becomes increasingly media-rich – audio, video and even mixed-reality features have become common – many schools recognize the need to keep upgrading bandwidth. In districts that meet the minimum connectivity goal, the median bandwidth per student is now 411 Kbps, a 29 percent increase over 2016. More than one in five school districts now meets the FCC's long- term goal of 1 Mbps per student. Eventually, even 1 Mbps per student won't be enough; like households and businesses, schools will continue to demand more bandwidth for the foreseeable future. Marwell comments, "Five years ago, people didn't know what to do with technology in the classroom – they were just automating what they were already doing. Now they're changing the pedagogy. … A ton more will happen over time." Nationwide, teachers and principals share their tech success stories and learn from one another, Marwell says. To continue upgrading their bandwidth, all schools need direct fiber connections to the internet. But connecting the remaining 2,000 schools will not be easy. About 77 percent of them are in rural areas, far from any fiber trunks. In many cases, there are not enough other potential fiber customers nearby to make an economic case for a service provider. "Often these schools will put out bids, and no one will respond," Marwell says. "Only about a third of them got anyone to bid." 2013 2015 2016 2017 Median cost per Mbps $22.00 78% decline $11.73 $7.00 $4.90 The cost of K–12 internet access has declined 78 percent in the last four years. 2015 2016 2017 All districts Rural districts 9,500 5,484 3,723 2,049 3/4 of schools 2,670 1,587 Rural and small-town schools represent three-quarters of the schools without fiber.

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