Blog post by Robert Ogan – September 25, 2020 (see bio below):

How Cradlepoint Mobile Wi-Fi Connects More Students

COVID-19 has brought renewed attention to the digital divide and made closing it quickly more important than ever. Cradlepoint and ByteSpeed are working with schools to ensure students have access to reliable, high-speed Wi-Fi regardless of their family’s economic situation or location.

How the Digital Divide Hinders Lower Income Students

With many students attending school entirely remote or as a mix of in-person and remote learning, ensuring students have access to a reliable internet connection has become critical.

Even before schools had to pivot to remote learning, the “homework gap” affected lower-income students’ ability to learn effectively. Children of wealthier families have computers and reliable internet access at home and are able to complete all their homework and access additional educational resources online. However, students from less wealthy families do not have these same critical tools at their disposal.

As such, these students often struggle to complete homework assignments using their parents’ mobile phones or shared family computers and frequently relied on spotty public Wi-Fi to complete and submit assignments, conduct research, and access other educational resources.

This struggle was brought to the foreground when an image of two little girls sitting in a Taco Bell parking lot with their computers and notebooks went viral. The two children had been relying on the fast-food outlet’s free Wi-Fi to complete their schoolwork.

The Internet Connection that Goes Where It’s Needed Most

Though the children in the Taco Bell parking lot, along with their peers in the Salinas City Elementary School District, now have the tools they need to succeed, in part thanks to a Go Fund Me campaign, not all students have received the same attention.

As many as 12 million school children across America do not have internet access at home, and 17% of surveyed US teenagers say they are either often or sometimes unable to complete homework assignments because they lack either a computer, a reliable internet connection, or both.

To address this need, companies like Cradlepoint are partnering with companies like ByteSpeed and bringing Wi-Fi to underserved students via school bus to make remote learning accessible to all students.

The buses, which rely on the CradlePoint NetCloud Mobile Advanced solution, can provide reliable, high-speed internet with full, integrated CJIS-compliant security. This added layer of protection not only minimizes the risk of malware but also automatically filters out inappropriate or dangerous website content.

A single Gigabit-class LTE modem provides enough bandwidth to support 100 users at a time. The buses are driven to low-income neighborhoods and parked in easily accessible central locations. Students set up their workspaces nearby and get to work. Even once students return to the classroom full time, and the newly connected buses are once again used for transportation, the Wi-Fi connection means schools can more easily implement anti-bullying solutions on buses and monitor bus driver performance, increasing student safety and protecting student wellbeing.

Minimize Downtime on Campus

Once students can safely return to the classroom full time, Cradlepoint can help keep students connected. Schools, just like distributed enterprises, need high-speed, reliable internet access. With classrooms, staff lounges, administrative offices, maintenance buildings, repair shops, and nurses’ offices all relying on the internet to stay connected, network failures can cause major disruptions.

Cradlepoint’s 4G LTE failover solutions provide backup broadband access should a school’s wireline connectivity be lost, minimizing or even eliminating disruptions, which can affect productivity and hamper learning.

Some rural districts now rely entirely on Cradlepoint’s 4G LTE solution because they are less expensive to install than traditional wireline solutions and can offer faster speeds.

Though many districts provide students with laptops or tablets, the usefulness of these devices is hindered when students can’t access the internet reliably. Submitting homework, emailing questions to teachers after hours, and conducting research all rely on a solid internet connection. A small number of districts rely on cellular service (essentially paying for data for students to use for educational purposes), but this solution is cost-prohibitive for schools with modest budgets, and running cable is both expensive and time-consuming.

Bringing CradlePoint Solutions to Your Classroom

If your school could benefit from Cradlepoint’s initiative, the experienced team at ByteSpeed is here to help. Our experts will sit down with you to determine your exact needs and craft a tailored solution to ensure all your students can access the resources they need to succeed.

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About blog author, Robert Ogan:

Robert is the Head of Infrastructure at ByteSpeed.

Before coming to ByteSpeed, Robert spent 16 years in K-12 technology, and is a former adjunct professor.