Equity of Access
California: California launched the K12High Speed Network (K12HSN) in 2006. K12HSN provides network connectivity to 100% of the county offices and nearly 90% of schools and districts. The California Department of Education funds the K12HSN with annual budget of $20 million and contracts with CENIC (Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California) to administer the network. The state has invested $77 million for the state broadband infrastructure upgrade program that has connected nearly 400 schools with still more to go. The costs are significant, but necessary to bring broadband to schools that sometimes relied on cellular data or outdated digital subscriber lines (DSL).
Kentucky: Kentucky Education Network (KEN) is comprised of a Middle Mile network which connects all 173 district hub sites to each other and to the internet. As a local control state, each district is responsible for providing connectivity from the district hub site to each individual school and other district buildings. The network provides secure Internet access to nearly 700,000 administrators, teachers and students. A significant benefit of the statewide network is the ability to integrate security services. The OET has enterprise level services for Firewall, Internet Content Filtering, Anti-Virus, DDoS, and statewide VPN services.
Utah: The Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN) connects K-12 schools, technical colleges, institutions of higher education and public libraries, as well as patients and health care providers throughout the state. UETN’s success is based on collaboration with lawmakers, the Governor’s office, and education and health care leaders. Teaming up with technology and telecom providers, the state delivers cost effective services in urban, suburban and rural areas.
Wisconsin: BadgerNet is a contract between the state department of administration and AT&T, where AT&T commits to providing 1 gigabyte of service to any school in the state. The state pays AT&T a contracted rate per circuit and then charges districts a monthly fee resulting in a significant subsidy for school districts.
Regional Broadband Networks
Minnesota: The Minnesota Education Technology Networks (METN), a cooperative of regional networks, provides regional network development, support and leadership to Minnesota school districts. The process for joining a regional network varies slightly by region, but generally school districts can join any network that could provide them with service. Most school districts have relied on the Federal E-rate program to afford high speed broadband, so they use the corresponding competitive bid process either independently to choose a regional network or the regional network completes a competitive bid process through E-rate for the regional broadband network as a wide area network for all members. The networks are coordinated by a cooperative or nonprofit education agency that provides services to the K-12 education system. Minnesota estimated that currently 70 to 75 percent of school districts utilize one of the regional networks.
New Mexico: Rio Rancho Public School District is a Future Ready school district moving towards one-to-one initiatives that use personalized and blended learning models. They have recently upgraded to 10 Gbps of Internet, 10 Gbps on the WAN.
Tribal Lands: In 2016, Sacred Wind Communications, Inc. worked on a solar powered plan to provide residents with electricity and telecommunications services in rural New Mexico. Sacred Wind collaborated with a solar entrepreneur to design a unit comprised of one medium solar panel and a reinforced steel box that sits outside the home. The unit generates enough power for a modem, fixed wireless antenna, laptop or tablet, and one lamp. Sacred Wind’s solar project is sponsored, in part, by the state of New Mexico’s rural universal service fund, which can only be used for telecommunications services. Sacred Wind matches all solar costs, dollar for dollar. Sacred Wind currently has 15 solar customers – all with access to emergency 911 and the highest internet speeds offered on tribal lands. Students in these families can now access high-speed internet at home to complete school projects.
South Lemhi School District, Leadore, ID: South Lemhi is a rural, Idaho district with just over 100 students. With support from the state, it recently had the largest special construction project, to date, activated with a new Microwave connection from a FY2017 USAC approval. This school district will move from a 45MB DS3 connection to 100MB microwave connection that is scalable to 1GB plus. The MRC went from $2500 to less than $800 for twice the speed to provide access to online content and courses to help meet the needs of these students that otherwise would not have access to the same resources as students in larger, more urban districts.
Sioux County Schools, Nebraska: Located in a very remote, rural part of northwest Nebraska, Sioux County School has leveraged E-rate funds to upgrade its systems to build a sound infrastructure to allow students to take foreign language classes online since it was not able to employ a foreign language instructor on a full-time basis. In addition, the Agriculture teacher is able to teach classes online to other schools which helps build Sioux County’s program and builds a foundation for future agricultural business education at the secondary level in other areas. Overall, E-rate provides the students with the ability to compete with larger districts as they prepare for the future college and career experiences.
Barbour County Schools, West Virginia: Barbour County Schools is a rural area, which has limited broadband access and many of the students rely on the broadband access they have at school for any access at all. All counties in West Virginia rely on E-rate funds to defer the costs of broadband for the schools; in Barbour alone, we get 90% reimbursement for broadband services through E-rate funds. Barbour County Schools has recently implemented a 1:1 tablet program for students in grades 3-12 and classroom devices for Pre-K and Kindergarten students. Teachers and students in the first year of implementation saw a greater reliance on technology and broadband access in their classrooms; with great improvements in engagement and state assessments with this initiative.
St Lucie School District, Florida: St. Lucie School District utilized E-rate funds to upgrade their LAN interconnect speeds from 1g to 10G to support pervasive wireless for every student in every classroom. One of Florida’s largest districts, three out of every four students come from socioeconomic backgrounds that qualify them for a free or reduced-fee lunch. And, out of 57 statewide districts, St. Lucie has never ranked higher than 42nd in graduation rates however, in the last three years, St. Lucie jumped from 45th to 32nd to 22nd. The school district is ranked first in improvement over the last three years for districts with more than 15,000 students. St. Lucie gives credits to this success, in part, to the district’s implementation of data analytics to drive instruction and support district resources. Providing seamless data to teachers and administrators enabled leaders to launch early interventions for both teachers and students. Access to this data would not be possible without a robust infrastructure.
Copper River School District, Alaska: Copper River School District uses video-teleconferencing and a tablet program to connect students and teachers in its brick-and-mortal schools (which are spread across a geographic region the size of Ohio) and to provide high school students with highly-qualified teachers and a full-slate of synchronous courses taught by district staff. Regardless of a student’s school of attendance, he or she has access to the entire master schedule. In addition, a robust e-campus learning program includes nearly 300 fully online, asynchronous courses available to all students. The e-campus program provides students with opportunities for honors and AP-level coursework, as well as CTE-focused classes and a wide variety of world languages. These programs would not be possible without leveraging E-rate funding sources for infrastructure.