The Rise of Home WiFi
Two decades ago, home WiFi was a nice-to-have for K-12 students – an auxiliary tool that could provide them with additional tools, learning games, and occasional browsing for school projects.
Those days are long gone. Over the past decade – and especially the past year, as the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated a shift to remote learning – it has become increasingly clear that Internet access is a necessity.
In order to keep up with their peers, access equitable opportunities, and – in many cases – access school at all, reliable, high-speed Internet access at home is essential. We must provide students with a way to access learning – anytime, anywhere.
Digital Equity and Inclusion
And yet, as we all know, this goal is not yet a reality. Common Sense Media found in their Third Digital Equity Report that 12 million K-12 students (about a quarter of all K-12 students in the U.S.) remain disconnected, despite the strides that were made towards digital equity in 2020.
While this issue is far-reaching and complex – and not something we can solve in one day – we hope to provide you with some simple considerations for accessible ways in which you can begin improving home WiFi access for students and families in your district today.
Home WiFi Considerations
CoSN’s recent Home Internet Connectivity Study found that 92% of K-12 students connect to the Internet via WiFi instead of a wired connection. This means that WiFi speed and bandwidth become direct correlators with students’ ability to access and keep up with schoolwork.
In addition, the findings showed that over 85% of remote learning network traffic can be attributed to video content, which requires adequate upload, download, and streaming speeds.
Given the importance of a strong WiFi connection, what are some practical ways in which school districts can help families and students achieve a better connection at home?
Here are some measures to consider, as noted in the CoSN study:
- Offer router upgrades. Experts recommend that most Internet users replace their WiFi routers every five years, and every two to three years for heavy Internet users (a category under which many of us may fall, given the demands for in-home school and work over the past year). If a few of your families have not been able to update their home router for a while, consider ways to finance this upgrade for them. There also may be an opportunity to take advantage of community drives, in which households may donate routers they no longer need.
- Provide network extenders in areas with poor signal. In many cases, network extenders can extend the reach of WiFi coverage in neighborhoods and communities whose connection is spotty.
- Educate families on router placement and maintenance. Simple fixes, such as placing WiFi routers in a central, high location away from other electronic equipment, can help improve Internet speed and coverage instantly.
- Work with a trusted wireless education solution provider. Kajeet has helped schools and districts close the digital divide for their students for over a decade. Connect with us to learn more about how fast, easy, and affordable it is to launch an effective connectivity solution for your students without adequate Internet access at home.
Beyond these activities at the student and family level, engaging with the funding resources that are available to support broadband access is a valuable way for districts to help their communities take advantage of the connectivity opportunities that are already available to them.
For example, the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit program provides a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Educating eligible families on their options, and even assisting them in their enrollment, can be an impactful way to support digital inclusion in your district community.
Download our Education Funding Guide to learn more about the opportunities available to support student connectivity in your district, and watch our funding webinar featuring representatives from the Department of Education.
And, from now until June 4, we are offering one year of a free digital equity program through the Kajeet Digital Inclusion Grant. Apply now for your district’s chance to win a free solution to support students in need of connectivity.
Home WiFi connectivity is becoming a prerequisite for access to the world of learning opportunities that are available online. As our world becomes increasingly interconnected, schools, districts, and school boards will be called upon to find new ways to support their students and families without Internet at home. Implementing these home WiFi tips can help districts address immediate problems while seeking digital inclusion solutions for the long-term.