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Classroom digital divide has closed, technology report says

The 2019 "State of the States" report from EducationSuperHighway.org says 99% of schools in the nation now have high-speed broadband connections.

The digital divide in U.S. classrooms has been closed, a new report on education technology asserts.

EducationSuperHighway.org, a non-profit organization that has pushed for better internet connections in America's K-12 classrooms, says in its annual State of the States report that 99% of schools in the nation now have high-speed broadband connections that enable students and teachers to use technology effectively in the classroom.

That translates to 46.3 million students and 2.8 million teachers in 83,000 schools with the internet access they need for digital learning.

The report says that 93 percent of school districts are using digital learning in at least half of their classrooms every week and 85 percent of teachers and principals support the increased use of digital learning in their schools.

Thanks to an unprecedentedbipartisan effort by federal, state, and school district leaders, supported by K-12 advocacy organizations, digital learning is now available in virtually every K-12 classroom across the country,” says Evan Marwell, founder and CEO at EducationSuperHighway. 

The 2019 report says the number of students who have access to broadband at the Federal Communications Commission's original goal of 100kbps per student has increased from 4 million in 2013 to 46.3 million in 2019. Ninety-nine percent of K-12 public schools have the fiber-optic connections needed to meet future connectivity needs.

The rapidly falling cost of internet access and significantly higher spending on connectivity have resulted in virtually every classroom having sufficient online access at broadband speeds.

The cost of Internet access for schools has declined 90% since 2013, the report says, and since 2015, school districts have invested nearly $5 billion in K-12 wifi networks.

The State of the States report also urges state leaders to ensure that districts don’t miss opportunities to continue to upgrade connectivity in schools in order to drive innovation in K-12 classrooms. 

"As the demand for connectivity continues to rise, school districts are embracing the FCC’s recommended 2018 goal of 1 Mbps per student, and 38% of them are already meeting it," EducatonSuperHighway says. "This powerful connection will allow the benefits of digital learning to reach every classroom, every day."

With its goal achieved, EducationSuperHighway will cease operations next year.

"In August 2020, we complete our mission, but not before we spend one more year helping as many of the last 1% of schools and students get connected to high-speed broadband," says Marwell. "We sunset knowing that a strong E-rate program will enable school districts, service providers, and state leaders tocontinue upgrading the bandwidth in America’s K-12 schools."

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