When COVID-19 turned education on its head this past spring, the achievement gap became much more jarring, showcasing just how many students are working with little to no digital learning resources in the home. And while federally funded programs like the No Child Left Behind Act and the Every Child Succeeds Act have been put into place to help stifle the achievement and learning gaps found across many school districts in the country, they do not account for gaps in information technology resources.
According to a study completed by the Pew Research Center based on the 2015 Census Bureau Data, approximately 15% of all school-aged students lack access to the high-speed internet required to stream video lectures, access digital learning materials, and complete homework assignments. This number more than doubles when reviewing children living in households that are considered low income.
To help suppress what some are calling the Digital Divide, Federal programs like the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Program have been put into place to ensure that internet access is as broadly accessible as possible for the K-12 students that need it most. This program, commonly referred to as E-Rate, was initially written into law in 1996 ,but was later rebooted in 2014 to account for the changes in technology requirements for e-learning and distance learning. The program initially sought to provide funding assistance to school districts that need internet services brought to a building, but now covers the internal infrastructure required to run all of the wireless tools inside the school.
How E-Rate Can Help
While these services don’t yet apply to internet access in the home, education leaders from across the country are urging the Federal Communications Commission to include home services in their next revision of the program. Currently, schools across the U.S. can leverage E-Rate to provide wireless services to students inside the school, helping to bridge the homework gap in rural and urban school districts.
As schools strive to extend wireless internet access to all students and teachers, many are beginning to think outside the box. Some creative solutions, for example, have included WiFi available in outdoor tents, parking lots and empty school buildings. Governing bodies are stepping in to help schools find ways to support all students in no-boundary learning programs – UNESCO, for example, released 10 recommendations for planning distance learning solutions.
With E-Rate, schools can leverage the program to receive discounts of up to 90% off the cost of the products and services that power the wireless networks required to conduct learning in the current digital age. This includes products like firewalls, routers, switches, and wireless access points – all parts of a healthy, robust wireless solution.
Cisco’s line of Meraki wireless access points, switches, and firewalls are among the many products eligible for funding through E-Rate. Their powerful access points deliver exceptional wireless signals across even the most high-density areas, while their switches provide IT staff with absolute network control and visibility from a single intuitive dashboard. This type of solution will certainly come in handy for the students and staff leveraging e-learning materials on a regular basis.
Want to Learn More?
Are you looking to upgrade your current wireless infrastructure to help bridge the homework gap for students without a stable way to access the internet? Do you have questions about the E-Rate program, like how to apply, what other products are covered, and if your school is eligible to receive program benefits? Download the Cisco Meraki E-Rate Data Sheet to learn more about all of the E-Rate eligible products and services that Cisco Meraki has to offer.
Or contact us today to request an assessment of your school’s current IT setup.