Minnesota represents among the fastest growing states in ensuring high-speed broadband access to students, according to a national report released this week. About 99 percent of school districts in Minnesota now meet the FCC goal of providing a minimum 100 kilobits per second (kbps) per student. This represents a 3 percent increase from 2017, and a 24 percent jump since 2015.
In Minnesota, median bandwidth has increased nearly four times statewide, from 226 kbps/student in 2015 to 890 kbps/student in 2018. That is the third highest in the nation, behind Maine and Arkansas, and the third highest growth nationally.
The 2018 State of the States report: Expanding Digital Learning to Every Classroom, Every Day found that only 2.3 million students do not meet FCC goal. This is down from 6.5 million a year ago. Download the full report.
This report draws from public E-rate data and input from school districts to show the progress in school connectivity in Minnesota schools. Charter schools, private schools, tribal schools, libraries and special centers are not included in this analysis.
This progress comes with the help of the Minnesota K-12 Connect Forward Initiative, a cross-agency partnership to ensure that all K-12 schools have access to robust infrastructure for 21st century learning. The initiative collects data on school connectivity, ensures full utilization of E-rate, leverages the state Telecommunications Equity Aid (TEA) program and promotes fair pricing.
Leveraging E-Rate Category 2 Funds
The E-rate Category 2 program reimburses school districts at a discounted rate for internal connections, managed internal broadband services, and basic maintenance and of internal connections.
Discounts range from 20 to 85 percent of the costs of eligible services. Starting in 2015, each school has a 5-year pre-discount budget of $150 per student. Without further guidance from the FCC, this funding system may only be good through 2019.
- $38 million in E-rate funds have already been leveraged since 2015
- $37 million remains unused
- $19 million will expire after 2019 if funds are not accessed
- To leverage the $19 million, schools would need to pay a local share of $13 million
In a survey of school districts who had not yet spent their Category 2 funds:
- 69% were aware that the funds existed this year
- 74% were planning to use the funds this year
- 43% indicated they need support in using those funds
The K-12 Connect Forward initiative supports districts with planning and E-rate throughout to ensure that Category 2 funds are leveraged.
Thanks to Education Super Highway for the contents of this post.