School Districts Progress Toward FCC's Internet Access Goals

  • EducationSuperHighway
  • Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
SAN FRANCISCO – While 94 percent of school districts nationwide now meet the minimum 100 Kbps per student goal set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2014, 6.5 million students still don't have access to classroom internet that meets the minimum standards. This data comes from the “2017 State of the States” report from EducationSuperHighway, a non-profit focused on upgrading the internet access in every public school classroom in America. The data shows that this digital divide is particularly wide in the 1,587 rural K-12 schools that don’t yet have the infrastructure necessary to revolutionize the way teachers teach and students learn.

The Good News - Additional Access
More than 39 million students in America have access to high-speed Internet at school. In its third year of releasing the status of broadband connectivity in the nation’s K-12 public schools, EducationSuperHighway highlights that an additional 5.1 million students gained vital access to high-speed Internet in the classroom. This year’s results show that 94 percent of school districts nationwide now meet the minimum 100 kbps per student goal set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2014.

The report confirms that America continues to make extraordinary progress in narrowing the K-12 digital divide. Overall, 39.2 million students, 2.6 million teachers, and 74,000 schools are now achieving the minimum connectivity goal that gives students equal access to digital learning opportunities. However, 6.5 million students are on the other side of the digital divide without access to high-speed Internet. A divide that is particularly wide in the 1,587 rural K-12 schools that don’t yet have the infrastructure necessary to revolutionize the way teachers teach and students learn.

“America made a historic promise to our students in 2013 to connect every school district to high-speed Internet,” said Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway. “We’ve made great progress since then; however, our work is far from over. It is critical that federal and state leaders, schools, and service providers continue the hard work necessary to close the connectivity gap.”

77 Percent of ISPs Have Upgraded Every School District They Serve

Nearly 700 service providers nationwide have upgraded 100 percent of school districts they serve to meet the minimum Federal Communications Commission (FCC) connectivity goal of 100 kilobits per second (kbps) per student.  More than 39 million students in America now have access to high-speed Internet at school due in large part to the broadband options made available through the FCC’s modernization of the E-rate program in 2014. However, 6.5 million students still lack the high-speed Internet access they need to set them up for success in today’s digital economy.

Key report highlights:

  • 39.2 million students, 2.6 million teachers, and 74,000 schools are now connected to high-speed broadband.

  • 46 governors have now committed to upgrading their schools for digital learning.

  • Nearly $200 million in state matching funds have now been allocated for special construction to connect the hardest-to-reach schools.

  • 97 percent of schools now have the fiber infrastructure needed to meet current and future needs, but more than 2,000 predominantly rural schools lack fiber access.

Progress has been made as the cost of broadband has dropped 78 percent from $22 per Megabits per second (Mbps) in 2013 to $4.90 per Mbps in 2017 in large part from increased transparency and new buying options made available by the FCC.

The Bad News: 6.5 Million K-12 Students Still Lack High-speed Classroom Access
While dramatic progress has been made in the last year, continued action is crucial in connecting the 6.5 million K-12 students who still lack access to high-speed classroom Internet. Only by working together can governors, state leaders and school districts succeed in closing the connectivity gap and providing all students with equal access to digital learning opportunities.

The State of the States report is based on an analysis of 2017 FCC E-rate data representing 11,038 school districts, 72,707 schools, and more than 39,319,782 million students. To access the full report, visit

Changes in E-Rate Fiber Rules May Hurt Schools

While incredible progress has been made, in recent months the emergence of new restrictions and changing definitions to E-rate fiber rules could slow new broadband investment, fiber construction, and prevent schools from taking advantage of all of the opportunities that digital learning offers. These changes have the potential to delay equal education opportunities for some of the hardest to reach students in the roughly 1,600 rural K-12 schools that lack the high-speed fiber infrastructure necessary to give students access to digital learning.

Woodman School in rural Montana is a great example of the power and promise of what E-rate can deliver, but where regulatory red tape is emerging to slow their digital progress. Today Woodman has one of the slowest Internet connections in a state ranked 49th in the country in school fiber connectivity. However, thanks to much-needed assistance from Montana Governor Steve Bullock, CenturyLink, their E-rate consultant and other key stakeholders, the school is now in the midst of an ambitious two-year effort to leverage options made available by E-rate modernization to advance the vital investment necessary to bring 100 Mbps of lit fiber, representing a 100x upgrade for the school district. This high-speed broadband is fast enough to enable students to stream educational videos and will be an educational accelerator and virtual game changer.

But now Woodman’s broadband enabled learning opportunities are being slowed by new restrictions out of Washington that have the effect of delaying progress and relegating these rural kids to learning tomorrow’s skills using dial-up speed speeds from the past. Across the country, at a time when broadband educational infrastructure investment is becoming increasingly vital, some of the students -- like those at Woodman -- who stand to benefit most are having their digital learning opportunities delayed by Washington. To continue to speed investment, schools need to have access to the the same fiber choices as any business does, Washington needs to provide swift E-rate application approval times based on clear and certain guidance, and broadband providers need “dig once” policies to enable them to serve both their schools and surrounding communities with one trench.

“Being located in a rural location has required us to overcome major hurdles in order to bring broadband infrastructure to our school,” said Erin Lipkind, Superintendent of Schools for Woodman School and others across Missoula County. “We’re looking forward to having our project approved so we can provide our students with the high-speed Internet they have waited so long to take advantage of. Our students deserve the best opportunities that digital learning can provide.”

At a time when 40 percent of our high schools do not offer physics, 55 percent do not offer calculus, and 75 percent do not offer computer science, access to technology and the high-speed Internet that powers it is more critical than ever before. Although regulatory red tape could slow progress in closing the connectivity gap, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said he is working closely with officials to mitigate these complications and extend broadband farther and faster to level the educational playing field.

Keeping E-rate Modernization on Track

“To finish the job, enable broadband investment, and ensure that every child has the high-speed Internet they deserve, we need to keep the promise of E-rate modernization on track,” said Evan Marwell, CEO at EducationSuperHighway. “We’re pleased to hear that Chairman Pai is focused on speeding up E-rate approvals, ensuring the program works efficiently, and closing the digital divide so all of our kids can have a brighter future. We look forward to efforts to maximize the effectiveness of the E-rate modernization order by sweeping away bureaucratic red tape and the regulatory uncertainty that may be impeding new fiber investments, limiting school broadband choices, and preventing students from being able to take full advantage of the high-speed Internet that powers digital learning.”


Read what others have to say, and share your own thoughts with the community.

2000 characters remaining

© 2023 Broadband Properties, LLC

Privacy Policy

Web Design and Web Development by Buildable