As more districts adopt 1:1 programs and digital policies, many students will be left without Internet access at home. (Photo: Colorstock)
Last week, the FCC voted to update the Lifeline program to include a broadband option for low-income households. The FCC’s action is yet another validation of the critical need we have tirelessly worked with schools and districts for more than three years to address – closing the digital divide and homework gap for K-12 students.
As Commissioner Rosenworcel said in her statement, “A Wi-Fi hotspot can be the difference between keeping up in class and falling behind.”
However, even though we applaud the decision, we know that the current Lifeline minimums of 500 MB of data per month at 3G speeds (used by an entire family) will still leave students with inadequate broadband and kids will still require other sources of broadband to finish homework. Kajeet recommends between 500 MBs to 1.5 GBs per month on 4G LTE for educational-only purposes. This is enough data for students to check email, complete assignments on Google docs, read their online textbooks or do online research. Lifeline minimums, as they stand now, will not be adequate for student needs.
The market for student connectivity will continue to grow rapidly over the next several years as more and more districts adopt 1:1 programs and digital policies – this will, in turn, increase the demand for Internet connectivity for more and more students.
Anticipating these Lifeline changes, Kajeet has designed a Lifeline Broadband service for households who choose to enroll and go through the verification process. We expect that, similar to Internet Essentials, there will always be a majority of students whose families do not/cannot/will not sign up for the program. In those cases, Kajeet Education Broadband will continue to be purchased by the school or district for the student - as they do today.
Like many other broadband providers, we are waiting for the final FCC Order before moving ahead on our strategy for low-income families. Kajeet will continue to offer our current Education Broadband to schools and districts as well as our Lifeline product to those students and families who choose that route.
These Lifeline changes do not take effect until December 2016, and the FCC has stated that the National Eligibility Verifier will take many months yet to launch. When the program is ready for launch, we will make public our offering for those students and families who wish to enroll.
The increasing demand for technology will only mean an increase in demand for broadband. Our team is happy to be one of the solution providers that will give students, schools, district and households more than just Internet, but a chance for success.