The Kids Link Colorado Initiative began as a joint partnership between the Colorado Broadband Office, the Office of the Governor, and EducationSuperHighway (ESH) to ensure that all students in Colorado have access to scalable infrastructure, high-speed affordable bandwidth, and ubiquitous Wi-Fi for digital learning. Kids Link Colorado has worked with Colorado Education Broadband Coalition (CEBC), a collaborative group of local school districts, Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES), and other stakeholders to identify solutions and utilize the national E-rate program to help schools keep pace with the increasing demands from technology.
Launched in 2016, the initiative has helped push education connectivity to new heights. In Colorado, 94% of the school districts now meet the national connectivity standards (100 Kbps per student), and in some districts the cost for broadband service has dropped below $1 per Mbps (compared with the national average of $4.90 per Mbps). For a first-hand perspective on the impacts of the Kids Link Colorado initiative, check out our success stories below.
While these metrics show progress, there is still work to do. In 2019, the national recommended connectivity standards will increase from 100 Kbps per student to 1 Mbps per student. Many school districts still face hurdles in providing the necessary bandwidth for their students due to either infrastructure or cost limitations.
“A 21st century Colorado must include a Colorado that is committed to getting
high-speed connectivity to all of our K-12 schools, which will ensure growth in
our economy and educational opportunities for all students across the state.”
– Gov. John Hickenlooper
Supporting School Districts
EducationSuperHighway sunset in 2020, but many of the resources are still available on their website. They partnered with Connected Nation to carry forward the EducationSuperHighway mission. Connected Nation has launched a new state and district search tool (to replace the Compare & Connect K-12 tool): https://connectk12.org/
State Match Funding
For example, if state funds are utilized for the project, the E-Rate discount will be increased by up to 10 percent to match the state’s investment.
For information about E-Rate eligible services, visit the USAC Eligible Services Overview.
Colorado has identified an existing funding source (BEST Grant Program) that qualifies for the State Match program as defined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Grant Program
BEST provides an annual amount of funding in the form of competitive grants to school districts, charter schools, institute charter schools, boards of cooperative educational services, and the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. BEST funds can be utilized for the construction of new schools as well as for improvements to existing school facility systems, structures, and technology infrastructure.
As of the 2017-2018 E-Rate cycle, BEST Grant funding will be eligible for Category 1 special construction costs. BEST Grant awards are made between June and July. Applicants can note on Form 471 that a state match was requested and notify USAC upon award.
For information about BEST eligibility and application process, please visit the Colorado Department of Education Capital Construction page:
Questions about State Match? Read our Frequently Asked Questions:
Open Kids Link Colorado State Match FAQ document in new window.
Colorado Educational Broadband Consortium
In August 2016 the Northeast Board of Cooperative Education Services (Northeast BOCES) and the East Central BOCES decided to join forces in order to amplify their purchasing power for broadband services for over 30 school districts combined. With the support of EducationSuperHighway, the new consortium was able to develop a single RFP (Form 470) and received eight bids in response. The responses were significantly more cost-effective than any previous bids.
Before the upgrade, the districts in the Northeast and EC BOCES were paying an average of $30 per Mbps to receive between 20 and 100 Mbps of Internet access. Now, nearly every school district will be getting 1 Gbps of Internet access for less than $1 per Mbps. That’s 10-50 times greater bandwidth for about 3% of the cost.
Check out this video to see the impact of low cost broadband for school districts:
Lewis Palmer School District
Lewis-Palmer School District is an 8-school district just north of Colorado Springs with ~6,300 students. The district was committed to a 2:1 ratio of devices to students and was moving toward a more media-rich curriculum. In order to support their digital learning goals, Lewis-Palmer needed additional bandwidth, but cost was a significant barrier to upgrading.
Their tech director leveraged data transparency in the Compare and Connect K12 tool to get more bandwidth at a more affordable cost. As a result this year, the district will be saving $1K per month and getting double the bandwidth compared to the previous year.
Related Article in EdScoop
Governor’s Office announces Kids Link Colorado
Colorado Broadband Office