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Report: 3 in 4 School Districts Meet FCC Internet Speed Standards

In its fourth and final annual report on K-12 connectivity, the nonprofit Connected Nation found major increases in some states and nationwide in how many districts meet the FCC's Internet speed standard of 1 Mbps.

An Internet speed test showing more than 30mbps.
High-speed Internet access was extended to an additional 5 million students in the past year, and nearly three-quarters of K-12 school districts (9,573) in the United States are now providing bandwidth at a minimum rate of 1 megabit per second. But while the federal E-rate program continues to lower Internet service costs for schools, there’s a long way to go in reaching the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) universal goal: 3,330 districts (more than 25 million students) still don’t have adequate high-speed service, and the cost of broadband service in remote areas of Alaska, Texas and Michigan are sky high, according to the Connect K-12 2023 Report on School Connectivity from the broadband nonprofit Connected Nation.

The 13-page report, released Monday, is the nonprofit's fourth and final annual update on the nation’s progress toward meeting the FCC’s standard of 1 Mbps for each student. So far, the report said, 27.1 million students have that level of connectivity at school, but Connected Nation's Connect K-12 program (CK12) has resources available to help districts reach more.

“A critical finding is that school districts that are meeting the 1 Mbps-per-student goal are also getting access at a much lower rate than those districts not meeting that benchmark,” Emily Jordan, Connected Nation's vice president of education initiatives, said in a public statement. “In fact, the cost is substantially higher for those school districts not meeting that level of connectivity. The good news is school and state leaders can leverage CK12's free and easy-to-understand data to better navigate the market when negotiating new Internet contracts — giving them the information they need to obtain better rates for their budgets and better connectivity for their classrooms.”

The lowest rate in the nation is in Utah (29 cents), while the highest, in Alaska, is $203.39. All told, the 2023 median cost per Mbps for districts was $1.01, a 16 percent decrease from last year and more than 30 percent less than in 2018, according to the report. The high costs are attributed to the lack of competition for contractors who can install fiber-optic cables, and to the effects of terrain, distance and low population density.

The report also notes:

  • In 16 states, at least 80 percent of school districts are meeting the FCC standard of 1 Mbps. That’s up from nine states in 2022.
  • Kentucky, which now has 97 percent of its districts meeting the standard, jumped from No. 49 in the country in 2022 to No. 5 this year. South Carolina, Maryland, Georgia and Rhode Island also saw significant improvement in high-speed connectivity rates in the 12-month period.
The report noted that the federal Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program, part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in 2021, will spend another $42.45 billion on enhancing broadband infrastructure in every state and five U.S. territories.

“While BEAD will focus primarily on ‘last mile’ deployments to unserved and underserved locations, the broader telecom ecosystem (including transport and non-mass market services) will necessarily be enhanced as well,” the report says. “This is important because we know that bandwidth demand will continue to grow alongside technology adoption.”