One District Brings Connectivity to the Community
Data from the FCC and market research firm BroadbandNow indicate that rural areas face more significant connectivity challenges. This was true in the case of Canutillo Independent School District, a rural district located near El Paso, Texas, where 70 percent of students lacked internet at home.
While many districts were putting Wi-Fi hotspots in parking lots to achieve connectivity, Canutillo ISD found safety issues with this solution. The weather, most notably the heat, posed the most danger to students who would need to sit in their vehicles all day to attend class.
Instead, Canutillo ISD’s Executive Director of Technology Oscar Rico worked with Cisco to create Canutillo Connects, an initiative aimed at providing internet access to the community using Cisco’s ultrareliable wireless backhaul.
DIVE DEEPER: Learn more about Canutillo ISD’s initiative to connect the community.
The company’s wireless mesh technology “brings secure broadband connectivity to sites and environments that are currently challenging to connect,” Patton explained. “For example, a school could extend their high-speed optical building network connection to a large radius around the school, using mesh technology.”
The Importance of Internet Access for the Future of Education
Lack of access to the internet will continue to be a problem in communities when students return to the classroom. Schools that haven’t found solutions should continue looking into options that enable reliable connectivity in every home. In some instances, this may require districts to work with their state government.
MORE ON EDTECH: K–12 leaders can work with local governments to address the digital divide.
There are also a multitude of funding options available to K–12 schools as a result of the pandemic, including ESSER funding through the CARES Act, E-rate funding and the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund, among others.
“Whether students go fully back to the classroom, learn from a distance or engage in some form of hybrid learning, they will still need access to the internet from home,” Patton said. “This access avails them of course content, homework resources, the ability to watch and rewatch lectures online, connect with virtual tutors and obtain online support services, which are critically needed today.”
Despite many children returning to classrooms, virtual schooling is an increasingly popular option. “Some students and faculty members may have to continue teaching and learning from a distance, and it’s important that they not be excluded from this recovery,” Patton added.