Study examines Internet connectivity in Texas schools

keyboard2A legislatively mandated study recently found that 26 percent of public school campuses in Texas responding to a survey met a state-specified target for Internet connectivity speed and 62 percent met the target for network connection speed between the district and each school campus.

The Public School Network Capabilities Study was published on the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website and sent to the governor and Legislature. Education committees in the House and Senate have received interim charges to examine access to broadband services by public schools.

The Legislature in 2013 enacted HB 1926 by K. King, which expanded electronic course options in public schools. As part of that bill, Education Code, sec. 32.005 required TEA to assess the network capabilities of school districts and open-enrollment charter schools to determine whether each met the following target capacities:

  • an external Internet connection featuring a bandwidth capable of a broadband speed of at least 100 megabits per second for every 1,000 students and staff members; and
  • an internal wide area network (WAN) connection between the district and each of the school campuses featuring a bandwidth capable of a broadband speed of at least one gigabit per second for every 1,000 students and staff.

To conduct the study, TEA sent a 12-question survey to 1,223 districts and charter schools and received an 89.8 percent response rate. TEA used the Internet and WAN connection speeds self-reported by districts for each of their campuses to determine whether a campus met the specified targets.

Campuses were asked to report up to two barriers that prevent them from meeting the Internet speed target. The most frequently mentioned barrier identified by campuses that did not meet the target was a lack of necessary funds in the district/campus budget. The second most cited barrier differed depending on locale. Campuses in city and suburban areas said current hardware or software did not support higher speeds, while those in town and rural areas said higher-speed connections were available only at premium rates.

Among campuses that met the Internet speed target, many reported that a shared connection with other campuses prevented them from using the full speed of the connection.

The report also includes information on what some other states are doing to address broadband connectivity for schools.

by Janet Elliott

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