Summer vacation is winding down, and Texas kids are gearing up to head back to school. And while cable is known for the entertainment it provides – during the summer and otherwise – it is also committed to enhancing and promoting education, as a new report underscores. The $275 billion invested over the past 20 years by cable providers to upgrade and boost internet access has made a tremendous impact on how students learn today.
A recent report by CTAM, Education at the Speed of Fiber, explores cable’s role in leading the charge to modernize learning, both inside and outside the classroom. Cable companies are working with schools to expand internet connectivity, make going online more affordable, promoting distance learning, and responding to students’ increasing use of tablets and digital devices both at home and school.
The report presents data from EducationSuperhighway, a nonprofit focused on upgrading internet access in every public school classroom in America. In the state-by-state breakdown of data, EducationSuperhighway’s progress report for Texas finds that 4,379,262 students in 938 school districts – 92 percent of the state’s school districts – are meeting the 100 kbps per student minimum connectivity goal. In addition, 98 percent of the state’s schools have fiber infrastructure.
How are cable providers playing a role? The CTAM whitepaper specifically notes one project in Texas:
“In Texas, the five-campus Wylie School District has adopted a “bring your own device” approach that invites students to use their own laptops, tablets and smartphones within the classroom to access web-based learning applications. With a limited procurement budget to help outfit K-12 students who don’t have their own devices, Wylie required that the data network supporting the plan meet stringent performance conditions – at an affordable cost.
“That’s where Spectrum Enterprise came in. The local cable company, drawing on its experience as an E-rate eligible telecommunications provider, drew up plans to provide an upgraded, 1 Gbps fiber access network that lets teachers leverage cloud-based resources like Google Apps for Education to enrich the learning experience. Replacing a previous 50 Mbps circuit, the new Spectrum Enterprise network delivers symmetrical connectivity, providing private, redundant connectivity with a future-proofed upgrade path the district already has utilized as its usage has climbed.”
The tremendous growth in student digital devices has emerged as a leading driver of bandwith expansion, finds an annual infrastructure survey by the Consortium for School Networking. The latest survey found that in 40 percent of U.S. classrooms, each student has access to a shared digital device at school. In three years, that 1:1 ratio is expected to climb to 43 percent, while 30 percent of students will have access to two shared devices while at school.
In addition, student access to non-shared devices at school – either provided by the school or through bringing their own device – has increased significantly. For the first time, the 2017 report found that every student in more than half of middle and high schools have access to a non-shared device.
Connecting kids at school, or helping them connect at home, is critical not just for their education now, but to prepare them for an increasingly technical and competitive U.S. economy.
Cable companies also are doing their part by making low-cost internet available to low-income families with children who qualify for the National School Lunch program. According to NCTA – The TV & Internet Association, more than 1.25 million families have been connected through these cable initiatives, which also include hardware, digital literacy training and technology centers. The industry has invested more than $300 million into these broadband adoption programs, according to NCTA.
Among these programs:
Altice USA in September 2017 announced the expansion of its Economy Internet program to households that qualify for the National School Lunch Program and senior citizens who qualify for Supplemental Security Income in service areas covered by Suddenlink Communications. In addition, Altice USA works with hundreds of community centers and libraries to provide free broadband in computer labs and other public spaces, enabling residents with access to high-speed internet at no charge in their communities. Read more from the announcement last September.
Cable ONE launched Chromebooks for Kids in 2014 with the goal to improve education through the use of technology. The program has since donated 650 Chromebooks to Title 1 elementary schools in Cable ONE communities that may otherwise have not had access to this technology.
Charter Spectrum Internet Assist, launched in November 2016, targets families with students who participate in the National School Lunch Program and seniors aged 65 and older who receive Supplemental Security Income program benefits.
Since 2011, Comcast’s nationally has connected more than 1 million families, or over 4 million low-income Americans – to the internet, as well as provided more than $350 million of support for digital literacy training, benefiting over 4.4 million people. In partnership with dozens of local nonprofit organizations, Comcast also conducts Digital Connectors, a year-long course that provides digital literacy training to students three times per week at a local school, community center or other facility.