Considerations for Implementation
The districts highlighted in this brief considered the following factors prior to implementing their off-campus Wi-Fi networks. Schools or districts considering a wireless network solution should reflect on these key considerations.
KEY CONSIDERATION 1: Establish Measurable Home Internet Access Goals
Our school or district has established measurable goals for providing home internet access to students using an off-campus Wi-Fi network.
- We have identified how students and teachers will use the network to support learning goals (e.g., online instruction, hybrid learning, homework help) and what device, apps, and filtering needs must be met by the network.
- We have established expectations about what broadband speeds are needed to support our learning goals and the total number of devices we can provide.1
- We have made plans and set aside resources to train and provide tech support to students and families, including in home languages, so they can successfully access and use digital learning resources.
- We have allocated the necessary resources (e.g., time, funding) to provide job-embedded professional development for teachers to ensure effective use of digital learning resources.
KEY CONSIDERATION 2: Conduct Needs and Topography Assessments
Our school or district has collected data and assessed the student needs and the technology requirements for implementing an off-campus wireless network.
- We have mapped student address data to determine where the unserved or underserved students live.
- We have identified students who are unhoused or highly mobile and are considering tailored solutions including mobile hotspots or partnerships with local homeless shelters to provide access.
- We have assessed local topography (mountainous land may hinder execution), access to towers or tall structures (tall structures are beneficial for expanding long term evolution (LTE) outreach), and line-of-sight requirements.
- We have developed an inventory and mapped the location of tall structures (e.g., buildings, water towers, grain siloes) that may be used for placement of customer premises equipment (CPE) and identified which are publicly or privately owned.
- We have a topographical map of the planned service area to help determine the necessary tower height and address line-of-sight requirements.
- We have arranged for legal access to the students’ homes for installation of CPE.
- We have identified a mix of different connectivity solutions that are aligned with our goals and which solutions will provide appropriate coverage for different situations.
KEY CONSIDERATION 3: Build Relationships that Lead to Partnerships and Collaborations
Our school or district has considered existing and potential partnerships or collaborations to help implement the network, including leveraging economies of scale and shared infrastructure to keep costs low and avoid the need for additional appropriations.
- We have built relationships with the local government (e.g., counties, municipalities) and identified opportunities to share resources (e.g., equipment, funding, staff).
- We have built relationships with other community anchor institutions (e.g., libraries, public housing authority, homeless shelters) and publicly owned utilities and identified opportunities to discover if any have infrastructure installed that can be used to create a wider network.
- We are collaborating with service providers and equipment vendors (e.g., internet service providers, state or regional education networks), private businesses, and nonprofit organizations.
- We are doing research to identify local wireless and wireline service providers.
KEY CONSIDERATION 4: Research Relevant Laws or Policies
Our school or district has researched the local, state, and federal laws and policies that may impact broadband deployment, such as where towers can be built, how to use publicly owned facilities in a network design, and the types of internet services to be offered.
- We have researched and acquired government approvals for an off-campus Wi-Fi network plan.
- We understand state and local laws with regard to telecommunications companies and municipal broadband.
- We are monitoring pending federal legislation that may impact state and local laws.
- We are aware of current limitations of the E-Rate program on extending E-Rate-funded connectivity off-campus and are monitoring updates regarding the temporary FCC Emergency Connectivity Fund to support the purchase of eligible equipment and advanced telecommunications and information services for use at locations other than a school or library.2
KEY CONSIDERATION 5: Identify Funding Sources
Our school or district considered a range of funding sources to support our digital access initiative in the short-term and sustainability over time.
- We are using federal or state funding (e.g., CARES Act, ARP funds).
- We have explored local corporations, businesses, or philanthropic programs.
- We have considered holding a bond issue.
Bond Issue: Education bonds are voter-approved funds that can only be used for school facilities. The local bond is similar to a loan, like a home equity line, but for the school district.
- EducationSuperHighway provides recommended K-12 Bandwidth Goals for school connectivity. These benchmarks paired with the BroadbandNow Bandwidth Calculator may be helpful in determining bandwidth goals for home connectivity.
- FCC. (2021). Report and Order Establishing Emergency Connectivity Fund to Close the Homework Gap. Retrieved from: https://docs.fcc.gov/public/attachments/FCC-21-58A1.pdf