Reliable internet, cybersecurity seen as most urgent among 9 E-rate trends
Discounted E-rate funding remains vital to connecting students and schools to the internet, but more reliable service and cybersecurity are increasingly urgent concerns, an annual trends report finds.
A record 130,418 sites—including schools and libraries—received E-rate funding in 2021, and an overwhelming majority of the respondents said that more students and library users are connected because of the program, according to Funds For Learning‘s 11th annual E-rate Trends Report.
The program funded $1.7 billion in internet and broadband connections and $1.3 billion in Wi-Fi and networking equipment, serving nearly 54 million K-12 students.
Not surprisingly, the survey also revealed that connectivity is now “mission-critical” for schools and libraries with many respondents saying students still do not have adequate internet access at home, said John Harrington, CEO of Funds For Learning.
“Connections now, more than ever, are vitally important,” Harrington said. “The demand for those connections is increasing, both the quantity of those connections as well the bandwidth.”
Applicants are also hoping to see some new services qualify for E-rate funding. At the top of that list are more reliable “dual internet” that provides backup access if service is disrupted and Wi-Fi service on buses.
Here are the top trends identified in the report:
- 89% of respondents said they can rely on E-rate funding every year
- Digital learning needs will continue to surge: 88% of the survey respondents expect bandwidth needs to increase over the next three years
- Most expected their broadband needs to grow by 25% to 50%
- 86% of respondents said they still had issues with insufficient internet access, particularly to students’ homes
- Some 90% of respondents said they would share internet service off-campus if permitted to by the FCC
- More than three-quarters of the E-rate applicants surveyed called cybersecurity “a serious and urgent concern”
- Nearly all respondents agreed that network security should qualify for E-rate funding
- 84% said “dual internet” should qualify for funding
- 64% said school bus Wi-Fi should qualify
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