Taking E-Rate and School Broadband to the Next Level

by Jennifer Head
January 16, 2019

By its most basic measure, the FCC E-Rate program has done a remarkable job of bringing broadband to K-12 schools. 98% of U.S. schools now have high-speed internet access of at least 100 kbps per student, a more than ten-fold increase in just a few years.1

However, the bar is constantly rising. What was once considered adequate high-speed access is now insufficient for digital learning. Schools must get aggressive to meet the FCC’s long-term goal of 1 Mbps per student, which will enable digital learning in every classroom. Today, only 28% of school districts currently provide that level of connectivity.

E-Rate eligible high-speed internet in use at schools.

For the remaining 72% of schools on the wrong side of the digital divide, district leaders must optimize their IT solutions to make the most of limited resources. Understanding which E-Rate eligible solution is best for your district is key.

  • Switched Ethernet for a virtual private LAN solution. School districts with more than one location and the need to securely share video, applications and voice data to one or more remote sites may want to rely on a switched Ethernet service. This technology extends communications across multiple district locations with fast and secure connections that range from 1.5Mb to 10 Gbps, offering private connections across a MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) advanced IP network. Switched Ethernet is a Layer 2 technology which enables point-to-multipoint configurations to create a customized LAN solution ideal for providing high-speed connections among multi‑location districts.
  • SD-WAN (software-defined wide area network). SD-WAN is an E-Rate category 1 eligible service, which offers high-performance networking using low-cost IP broadband. SD-WAN acts as an overlay network that decouples network management from physical hardware, and a centralized controller determining the best path for each application to optimize performance.
  • Wavelength services. Larger campuses with expansive student populations may find a better fit with wavelength services, which offer point-to-point fiber connectivity without high upfront costs. Wavelength services typically range from 1 to 100 Gbps to meet specific needs and budgets. The result is high resiliency with a lower cost per Mbps than any other managed transport.

Building a network for today’s learning environment takes much more than simply turning up the dial on bandwidth and selecting among network options.  In order to optimize your investment in data connectivity for your district, other key services– such as security, network management, voice and unified communications are also required.

As an approved E-Rate service provider since the inception of the program, Windstream Enterprise can meet you at the whiteboard to customize a robust, versatile IT solution that best meets your needs, while maximizing every dollar of E-Rate funding and your IT budget.

1 stateofthestates.educationsuperhighway.org/#future