Since 2020, there’s been a 25% uptick in school districts nationwide meeting or surpassing the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) bandwidth goal of 1 Mbps per student, according to a recent report from Connected Nation.

While 59% of districts met the FCC benchmark in 2021 compared to 47% in 2020, 27.6 million students still lack enough bandwidth to support their digital learning needs in the classroom, the report said.

Even though this new data is encouraging, more action is needed to increase internet access and connectivity for students, suggests Connect K-12, an online resource for information on K‑12 internet service. One solution: continuing to improve the FCC’s E-rate program that helps subsidize school connections and internet infrastructure.

The pandemic gets partial credit for the increased district connectivity because it created awareness of the need for strong internet connections to ensure student success. Experts hope this will help continue the focus on, and provide funding for, improved broadband infrastructure and lower internet pricing.

The FCC’s bandwidth benchmark of 1 Mbps per student was established in 2014 through the E-rate Modernization Order. But a big question now lingers: Is the FCC’s bandwidth goal high enough to support the growing demand of student devices in school?

For rural areas facing difficulties funding strong telecommunications infrastructure, public-private partnerships could be a solution.

The Report on School Connectivity found districts pay a wide range of prices for the internet. In fact, the median cost per megabit has decreased from $11.70 in 2015 to $1.39 currently. Yet 1,703 districts pay more than $5 per megabit, and 746 districts are still paying more than $10 per megabit, according to the report.

As districts navigate and continue to learn lessons about the digital divide during the pandemic, they are calling for more sustainable ways to establish consistent, permanent internet access in both schools and students’ homes.