Preparing students to be successful for the future requires a robust and flexible learning infrastructure capable of supporting new types of engagement and providing ubiquitous access to the technology tools that allow students to create, design, and explore. Reliable connectivity, like water and electricity, is foundational to creating an effective learning environment. Students and teachers cannot take advantage of the opportunities to connect and engage globally or leverage high-quality learning resources without consistent and reliable access to the internet.
Since June 2013, the Office of Educational Technology has been working toward the goal of connecting 99% of American students to next-generation broadband in their schools by 2018.
Reimagining the Role of Technology in Education
The NETP is the flagship educational technology policy document for the United States. The plan articulates a vision of equity, active use, and collaborative leadership to make everywhere, all-the-time learning possible. The NETP includes an infrastructure section that discusses the essential components of an infrastructure capable of supporting transformational learning experiences.
Building Robust Infrastructure
Technology infrastructure decisions should be academic decisions driven by a district or school’s strategic vision of success. This guide provides practical, actionable information intended to help district leaders (superintendents, principals, and teacher leaders) navigate the many decisions required to deliver cutting-edge connectivity to students.
24/7 Connectivity: Wi-Fi Powered Buses
Coachella Valley Unified School District describes how they fitted school buses with routers and solar panels to bring connectivity to their low income neighborhoods.
Federal Connectivity Initiatives
- E-Rate: In December of 2014, the the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued its second E-rate modernization order. Together with a similar July 2014 order, this action represented the largest overhaul of the E-rate program in its 18-year history and increased the annual E-rate funding cap to $3.9 billion to dramatically expand high-speed Internet connectivity for America’s schools and libraries — moving toward the ConnectED goal of connecting 99% of the nation’s students to high-speed broadband.
Schools and libraries interested in more information about E-rate should visit the website of the Universal Service Administrative Company, which administers E-rate, for more information.
- ConnectHome: ConnectHome is a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program focused on increasing access to high-speed Internet for low-income households. The pilot program launched in 27 cities and one tribal nation in the summer of 2015, initially reaching more than 275,000 low-income households and nearly 200,000 children. As part of the program, Internet service providers, nonprofits, and the private sector will offer broadband access, technical training, digital literacy programs, and devices for residents in assisted housing units.
- Lifeline: At the beginning of April 2016, the FCC voted to modernize the Lifeline program, reforming the $1.5B per year Reagan-era phone subsidy program to turn it into a 21st Century national broadband subsidy to help low-income Americans get online. The modernization also set a floor for broadband speeds paid for by the subsidy to help ensure Lifeline users aren’t subscribing to second-rate internet. For more information, visit https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/lifeline-support-affordable-communications.
- Broadband Interagency Working Group (BIWG):The BIWG, formerly the Broadband Opportunity Council, established by President Obama on March 23, 2015 by presidential memo – Expanding Broadband Deployment and Adoption by Addressing Regulatory Barriers and Encouraging Investment and Training. The Broadband Interagency Working Group is jointly chaired by designees from the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture. The Broadband Opportunity Council includes 25 federal agencies and departments engaging with industry and other stakeholders to understand ways the Executive Branch can better support the needs of communities seeking broadband investment. It also helps identify regulatory barriers unduly impeding broadband deployment, adoption or competition, and recommends steps to remove such barriers.