Recently, NCTA – the Internet & Television Association and the EducationSuperHighway (ESH)* launched K-12 Bridge to Broadband, a groundbreaking public-private initiative that aims to connect students from low-income families to the internet for remote and hybrid learning. Under the initiative, cable providers will be working with school districts and states to identify unconnected, but serviceable, student households and to offer “sponsored” service/bulk billing arrangements, which simply means that that school systems will purchase broadband on behalf of low-income students at discounted rates provided by the broadband services providers.
The initiative is modeled on successful ISP – school district partnerships recently forged in Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Des Moines and other cities. The big news today is that under the K-12 Bridge to Broadband initiative the program will be scaled to a national level so that nearly every school in the service area of NCTA members, which offer broadband service to 80% of U.S. homes, will be eligible to participate.
A central component of this initiative is the NCTA-ESH framework of core principles, under which NCTA member companies will:
- create a “sponsored” service offering for school districts or other entities;
- work with school districts to identify which students need service;
- agree to a baseline set of eligibility standards;
- minimize the amount of information necessary to sign up families; and
- not use school-supplied information for targeted marketing of collateral services to families covered by the program.
EXAMPLES OF ISP – SCHOOL DISTRICT PARTNERSHIPS THAT K-12 BRIDGE TO BROADBAND WILL SCALE AT A NATIONAL LEVEL
With the possibility of remote learning returning this fall, the City of Chicago, Chicago Public Schools (CPS), the philanthropic community, and leading ISPs recognized a historic opportunity to eliminate broadband accessibility as a barrier to digital learning. On June 25, 2020, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot announced the launch of Chicago Connected, a groundbreaking, multi-year, public-private partnership to close Chicago’s digital divide and ensure that CPS students and their families have the Internet in their home for remote learning.
Atlanta Public Schools (APS) is connecting thousands of students to low-cost Internet solutions in partnership with Comcast Internet Essentials so they can continue learning during the coronavirus pandemic. They shared the critical steps they took to keep students learning during COVID-19 on digitalbridgek12.org.
Clarke County (Las Vegas) Public Schools
The Clark County School Board approved a $6.6 million spending package to purchase internet connections and mobile hotspots. The allocation can provide 20,000 students internet service for one year through Cox Communications. Cox will also provide online safety software tools to block students from accessing inappropriate websites when they are connected through their devices, officials said.