Education leaders in Connecticut are likely giving themselves a pat on the shoulder based on new data released by the nonprofit Connected Nation that shows Connecticut school districts are achieving higher levels of school internet connectivity than the rest of the country.
In 2014, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set a benchmark goal for an internet speed of 1 Mbps per student. Forty-nine percent of Connecticut school districts are now at 1 Mbps per student, compared to 47 percent of school districts nationwide.
“In Connecticut, we have taken on digital equity as the Brown v. Board of Education of our time,” said Gov. Ned Lamont. “Whether it is connecting students at home through our Everybody Learns initiative or providing virtually limitless broadband to schools through the flagship Connecticut Education Network, we are working to ensure all students have an equal opportunity for digital learning, in every home and classroom, every day.”
The 49 percent figure represents a sharp increase over where the state was a handful of years ago.
“The progress Connecticut school districts have made over the last four years is incredible. They’ve made the leap from 32 percent of school districts to nearly half meeting the recommendation,” said Emily Jordan, vice president for Connect K-12. “That has been possible through a robust state network (the Connecticut Education Network) that provides safe, scalable internet connections in a cooperative model that has kept pricing level even as consumption has increased.”
Jordan further praised education leaders in the state, saying, “State and school district leaders have taken proactive steps to ensure that more Connecticut school buildings have the internet connectivity needed to ensure teachers and students have the resources for digital learning.”
The release of the new Connecticut data comes at a time when the Federal government is increasingly focused on broadband access as Americans are relying on internet connectivity for not only education, but also teleworking and telehealth.
On March 23, Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Reps. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., and Roger Williams, R-Texas, reintroduced the Eliminate the Digital Divide Act, which is intended to expand rural broadband access in rural America. The bipartisan legislation would distribute $10 billion to states to build out broadband infrastructure in unserved areas, including a $1 billion set-aside for high cost areas.
The FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau (WCB) is also currently seeking comment on the Emergency Connectivity Fund for education connections and devices to address the homework gap during the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the American Rescue Plan, Congress established a $7.171 billion Emergency Connectivity Fund. The FCC was tasked with creating the guidelines that will be used to distribute the funding to eligible schools and libraries, which can use the funding to purchase approved equipment and advanced telecommunications and information services.