Connecting Colorado Students


Colorado Broadband Office K-12 Connectivity, News

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Broadband 101
Accessing Internet Services
Resources for School Districts

Broadband 101

Understanding Upload and Download Speeds

Upload speed is how quickly information travels from your device to the internet. For example, uploading pictures to an online album will be limited by the upload speed. If you have a 5 Mbps upload connection, it would take about 3 minutes to upload 20 pictures. A 1.5 Mbps upload connection would increase that time to over 8 minutes.

Download speed is how quickly information travels from the internet to your device and appears on the screen. For example, Netflix uses about 5 Mbps to stream a movie, so if your speeds are less than 5 Mbps, the movie will likely stop and buffer. 

Mbps: Internet connection speeds are typically measured in megabits per second (or “Mbps”).

Why do Upload and Download Speed Matter?

If your service is not fast enough for the type of activity you are trying to do on the internet, you may experience dropped connections, buffering, or inability to complete your tasks. Imagine you just completed a homework assignment and you are unable to upload it in time to meet the deadline.

For interactive learning: two-way video calls requires upload and download at the same time, meaning you would need about 3 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload for a good connection. 

What are Data Caps and why do they matter?

Internet data caps are monthly limits on the amount of data you can use over your internet connection. When you hit that limit, there can be a variety of consequences based on your service contract. This can include:

  • Overage Fees
  • Slowing down data speeds
  • Disconnecting service

Data caps include both upload and download data. That means when you are doing an activity like video conferencing, you are are uploading and downloading simultaneously, and data from both upload and download gets added to you data usage number.

Caps are most common for mobile data service, but are also imposed by many “fixed” internet providers (meaning the connection to your home from the phone or cable company). Mobile data caps are often much lower than home internet services – think of 10 GB per month for mobile service versus 1000 GB per month for fixed service.

It’s important to know if you have a data cap and to know what happens when you reach it. Ask your Internet Service Provider or Mobile/Cellular carrier if your service contract includes data caps, and if so what will happen if your data usage exceeds the data cap?

Accessing Internet Services

Home internet is now an essential tool for today’s education, but not everyone has access to support interactive learning tools. Here are some tips to access high-speed internet to support interactive learning.

Where to Start

School
District

Ask your school or school district about public Wi-Fi access locations, free Wi-Fi hotspots, or discounts on home internet services.

Cell Phone
Provider

Ask your cell phone provider about Wi-Fi hotspot service availability.

Internet Service
Provider

Ask your area’s internet service providers (ISPs) about service availability. Tip: Locate your ISPs with the Colorado Broadband Map

Things to Consider When Choosing Internet Service

Cost

Cost

Discounts?: Does your service provider have a discount program for students, teachers or income-qualifying households?

Monthly Fees?: What is the monthly cost for service? Are there additional monthly costs for equipment?

Initial Cost?: Is there a connection fee or device fee? Many home internet services have a connection fee to install service to the home, while many mobile service plans require you to purchase or rent a mobile device (cell phone or Wi-Fi hotspot).

Speed

Speed

What download and upload speeds are available? What speeds can you expect? Will the service support participation in two-way video calls (Zoom, Microsoft Teams) for interactive learning?

Keep in mind: Interactive learning tools will require at least 3 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speed per person. That means that each person in the household (student, parent, teacher, etc) should have a minimum of 3 Mbps Upload and 3 Mbps Download to participate in video conferencing (Zoom, Google Meet, WebEx, GoTo Meeting etc).

Any additional tools or activities will increase the bandwidth needs. Use this tool to calculate your household bandwidth needs:

https://broadbandnow.com/bandwidth-calculator

Data Usage

Data Usage

Does the service have a data usage cap (a limit on data usage per month)?

“Data Caps” are limits on how much data you can use during a month. To support interactive learning, you will need at least 50-100 GB of data per month.

If you cannot access a service plan without data caps, then it’s important to know your data cap and what happens if you reach it. Will you be charged overage fees? Will your service slow down? Will your service be suspended until the next month?


Resources for Districts

Home internet is an essential tool to support remote learning for your students and teachers. Here are some steps your district can take to ensure your students and teachers are connected to the internet.

Identify District Needs

What is your district’s need? How many students don’t have internet at home? How many students have inadequate internet at home? Where are those homes?

Conduct a needs assessment to identify students and teachers without sufficient connectivity. 

Don’t forget to ask WHY they don’t have the access they need. These barriers can include: service is too expensive, service is unavailable at their location, family does not want connectivity .

Identify Solutions

Once you know where the students are and what the barriers are – you can start to identify potential solutions. Can these homes be connected using mobile Wi-Fi hotspots – or are they in areas without cellular service?

  1. Determine if your school district has funding to support student and teacher connectivity.

    Did You Know?
    GEER and ESSER grant funding can be used for teacher and student connectivity

    GEER: Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. Colorado received $44 million for grants to school districts, public schools, and public institutions of higher education serving high-needs students in order to help prevent and address the “COVID slide” and support innovation and equity.
    ESSER: Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. Colorado received $120 million in emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools.

  2. Work with local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to provide high-speed internet to your students and teachers. Get started by asking the ISP: 
    1. Can they provide service to your students and teachers’ households (you may need to provide a list of addresses)? How long would it take to connect each household?
    2. Do they have existing discount programs or service plans to support distance learning? 
    3. Can they contract directly with the school district to provide bulk pricing devices?
Additional Resources

Need more guidance? Here are a few resources to help you get started:

Visit the Colorado Department of Education “Getting Connected Online” page: www.cde.state.co.us/learningathome/gettingconnected

Check out the detailed “How to Connect Your Students: Home Internet Access” guide created by our partners at EducationSuperHighway