Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Analysis Reveals Majority of Schools Lack Access to Adequate Bandwidth
Press Release

RELEASE: Analysis Reveals Majority of Schools Lack Access to Adequate Bandwidth

Read the analysis.

Washington, D.C. — A large majority of educators report that their schools lack adequate bandwidth and technological capacity, according to a new analysis released today by the Center for American Progress. This finding illustrates the importance of the Federal Communications Commission’s recent announcement to devote $2 billion to help some 15,000 schools build higher-speed Internet connections, aided by additional significant contributions from private firms.

“Today, Wi-Fi is almost everywhere—restaurants, airports, your local doctor’s office. The one place that seems to lack good Internet access? Our nation’s schools,” said Ulrich Boser, co-author of the analysis and Senior Fellow at CAP. “The implications are significant, and our schools need robust digital tools to give students the knowledge and skills to succeed.”

Across the country, schools and districts continue to desperately lack technological capacity. When CAP education experts recently studied unpublished data from the Software & Information Industry Association’s 2013 Vision K-20 Survey, they discovered that 70 percent of educators believe that there is simply not enough bandwidth in their schools. What’s more, it appears that urban schools often have the least access to bandwidth.

While Washington cannot solve every problem, it can help schools address our growing technology gap. The Federal Communications Commission is currently planning to revise E-rate, one of the nation’s school technology programs. Congress created the E-rate program in 1996 to provide schools and libraries with low-cost telecommunications services, and in some cases, the program subsidized up to 90 percent of the costs.

However, the E-rate program today is a lot like a dial-up modem. It’s balky, complicated, and lacks power. Additionally, the program simply lacks funds. The E-rate program was capped at $2.38 billion for 2013, yet schools and libraries requested more than $4.9 billion in E-rate funding this past year.

At the same time, schools simply do not have the digital access they need. The Software & Information Industry Association survey results revealed that less than one-third of educators—25 percent of educators in urban areas and 33 percent of educators in rural areas—believe that there is adequate bandwidth for students to have access to digital instructional materials.

Schools and districts also lack the capacity to use technology in creative ways. In an analysis of federal government data, for instance, as recently as five years ago, only around half of all school districts had a full-time technology coordinator. More than that, wealthier schools were 13 percentage points more likely to have a technology coordinator than poorer schools. In other words, the schools that needed the most support were the ones getting the least.

Read the analysis: Why Too Many Schools Live in an Analog World—and What We Can Do About It by Ulrich Boser and Chelsea Straus

To speak with an expert on this topic, contact Katie Peters at [email protected].