State Leadership Working Towards Broadband Access for All
If the workday of an adult typically requires seamless broadband access, then it’s reasonable that today’s students need the same access during their school day. After all, schools are preparing them for their future careers, which will include using some aspect of online technology. Recently, SETDA released State K-12 Broadband Leadership: Driving Connectivity, Access and Student Success, which looks at the current state of broadband access and how states are supporting teachers and students. In a recent edWebinar, Christine Fox, Deputy Executive Director of SETDA, offered highlights from the report, and Ryan Kocsondy, Director of Connecticut Education Network (CEN), gave an inside look at why Connecticut schools don’t worry about running out of bandwidth.
- Most states have coordinated efforts to support connectivity on and off campus. The approach, though, differs from state to state. Twenty-eight states have statewide networks, nine have regional networks, and 16 have alternative models, like purchasing consortia. The key is the state leadership to make broadband accessible to all.
- Similarly, 28 states have policies and guidelines for external connections; 23 have them for internal wireless connections. More important, states are starting to recognize the need for equitable access off site. While states are mainly providing strategies and not funding, there is a growing movement to create innovative solutions like wi-fi on buses and community partnerships to provide wi-fi access at home.
- Regarding funding, 22 states have direct funding for broadband connectivity, and 14 provide money for internal wireless connections. Many times, the funding is not enough, and schools supplement from outside sources, including the E-Rate program.
Included in the new report and accompanying website are case studies of success stories. In Connecticut, for example, public schools as well as other organizations receive broadband services from the CEN. Part of a community of networks, CEN manages and services the broadband, working closing with its partners to ensure continuous connectivity. Beyond technical capabilities, Kocsondy explained why the schools have confidence in CEN.
- CEN isn’t profit focused. While it can’t operate in the black, the pricing is budget friendly. Kocsondy says they like to focus on stakeholders, not stockholders, and make sure that every service they add has a distinct benefit for their partners.
- Every user receives equitable service across the network, no matter their size or location. There are no cap limits, no throttle rates, and no chastising schools when they need extra bandwidth. Schools feel free to approach CEN when they need more bandwidth.
- CEN also has a reputation for reliability. They work closely with content providers to make sure that schools can access their resources as they need them with no waiting. In addition, CEN handles security for the network, combating denial of service and other attacks that could take a network down. CEN also has redundancies built in so that if one node goes down, schools won’t notice.
- Most important, CEN has advisory councils made up of their stakeholders. They collaborate to make sure the technology and services are meeting their current and future needs.
Overall, Kocsondy estimates CEN has helped its partners avoid $24 million in costs while providing incredible value. Due to CEN’s services, schools have been able to host eSports events, offer distance learning, run Hour of Code events for the school and community, produce internet radio and video conferences, and many other activities that rely on stable internet access. Kocsondy believes CEN’s biggest contribution, though, is that schools don’t hesitate to add new programming because they know connectivity won’t be an issue.
As Fox said when discussing SETDA’s report, a network like CEN might not work for every state. By providing these examples of state leadership to support technology in education, though, states can work towards bridging the digital divide.
This article was modified and published by EdScoop.
About the Presenters
Christine Fox is the deputy executive director for SETDA. As Deputy Executive Director, she collaborates with the executive director in charting strategic direction, administration, planning and financial decisions involving SETDA. She also facilitates the members’ professional learning opportunities including planning and implementing the content for SETDA’s virtual and in-person events and newsletters. In addition, she manages many of SETDA’s research and product development projects from conception to publication. The management of such projects includes coordinating data collection from all states, supervising consultants and staff, ensuring member input and supervising the publishing process. Recent publications and projects include Navigating the Digital Shift, Digital Instructional Materials Acquisition Policies for States, OER Case Studies: Implementation in Action, The Broadband Imperative and From Data to Information. Christine’s background includes experience in education and consulting. She has worked as an educational consultant and curriculum developer for a national whole school reform model, ESOL coordinator and 3rd grade teacher. Christine has a Masters of Science in teaching English as a second language from Florida International University and received her bachelor’s degree in English literature from Florida State University.
Ryan Kocsondy brings over 17 years of technology and business experience to the Connecticut Education Network (CEN) team. He previously managed UConn’s Network Engineering and Data Center Operations teams, having started his career there as a junior network technician in the summer of 2001. More recently, Ryan spent five years restructuring and revitalizing IT service and support as the director of UConn Hartford ITS and helped design the IT, AV, and security infrastructure from the ground up for the new UConn Hartford Campus which opened in the fall of 2017. Ryan serves on the Member Board of Directors for NEREN and The Quilt, representing CEN and its members regionally and nationally among research and education network peers.
Join the Community
Essential Elements for Digital Content is a free professional learning community on edWeb.net that provides policy makers, school administrators and educator leaders a better understanding of policies and practices related to digital instructional materials.
The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit membership association launched by state education agency leaders in 2001 to serve, support and represent their emerging interests and needs with respect to the use of technology for teaching, learning, and school operations. Our current work is guided by a strategic plan, Leading, Inspiring and Empowering: The 2013-16 SETDA Strategic Plan, adopted by the SETDA Board of Directors in October 2012 after extensive consultation with the membership. The SETDA mission is to build and increase the capacity of state and national leaders to improve education through technology policy and practice.
ENA delivers comprehensive technology solutions supported by exceptional customer care to education and library institutions across the nation. In 2018, ENA joined forces with a company who share ENA’s same vision and passion for delivering excellence—CatchOn. CatchOn is a user-friendly data analytics tool that enables school districts to make data-informed decisions about the apps and online tools their educators and students are using. Collectively, ENA and CatchOn leverage their respective resources and expertise to deliver critical services and solutions to America’s community anchor institutions.
Kajeet, the industry leader for safe, managed mobile solutions, powers the K-12 connected environment. Our secure Kajeet Sentinel® platform centrally manages and enables safe, online connectivity and visibility into mobile learning environments. Schools and districts can manage and protect student mobile devices anywhere to create an ideal learning environment while extending the school day with Wi-Fi on the bus and Internet access outside the classroom. From the classroom to home, Kajeet has students covered.
Mobile Beacon provides fourth generation (4G) mobile broadband services exclusively to schools, libraries and nonprofit organizations across the United States through an agreement with Sprint. Mobile Beacon was created by a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the second largest national educational broadband service (EBS) provider in the country. We help educators and nonprofits get the Internet access they need and extend access within their communities to those who need it most.
The Parana River team has deep expertise across the entire life cycle of identifying, planning, executing, operating and growing technology solutions. We help our clients focus on unlocking value contained within their organizations through better use of technology to understand, reach, grow and retain clients, as well as to understand and seize opportunities in new markets and products that align well with their business goals.