K-12 Bandwidth Goals

To reach the goal of sufficient broadband access for enhanced K-12 learning and improved school operations, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted the following connectivity goals so that school districts can meet these minimum bandwidth targets.

FCC Bandwidth Goals

Broadband Access for Teaching, Learning and School Operations 2014-2015 School Year Target 2017-2018 School Year Target
An external Internet connection to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) At least 100 kbps per student At least 1 Mbps per student
Internal Wide Area Network (WAN) connections from the district to each school and among schools within the district At least 1 Mbps student At least 10 Mbps per student

How Much Bandwidth Do I Need?

The FCC-adopted bandwidth goals provide a great foundation on which to start your planning. However, in order to more accurately dimension your network bandwidth there a number of considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Remember to dimension for all users and locations.
    Keep in mind that there are many other users of technology in the school including, teachers, administrators, and other school staff and should be accounted for when planning your district’s bandwidth needs. There may are also be more locations than just classrooms that need to be connected and factored into the bandwidth projections such as bus barns, workshops, and even security cameras on campus.
  2. Factor in concurrency when planning Internet Access.
    In practice, not every student at every school will be on a network at a given time. From a network design perspective, the total bandwidth need should reflect the number of expected concurrent users on the network rather than the total number of possible users.
  3. The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend puts new requirements onto networks.
    Each device connecting to the network adds additional load. If students, educators, and administrators are using multiple devices during the day, your network may need to have additional bandwidth to handle this traffic.
  4. Size your bandwidth for peaks, not averages.
    In order to run your digital curriculum effectively, make sure you have enough bandwidth to handle “peak” events or the times everyone wants to use learning tools simultaneously.
  5. Always add some bandwidth “padding” on top of your total calculation.
    EducationSuperHighway recommends adding a 20% bandwidth buffer to your peak demand estimate to cover usage of other applications that may also be in use during peak times.
  6. Plan for the future, assuming that bandwidth will continue to grow significantly.
    The FCC’s goals forecast a 10x increase in traffic needs over 4 years, consistent with the increasing demand as schools embrace digital learning. As you enter into a multi-year contract with your service provider it’s critical to think about the total bandwidth you will need over the lifetime of the contract - and ensure that your service provider is able and willing to help you cost-effectively scale over time.
  7. Monitor your network.
    The only way to understand if your network is most cost-effectively meeting the needs of your students is to understand how much it is being used. Simple network monitoring you can make sure that you are not over or under-provisioning.

Based on the FCC goals and common practice in the field, we see the following bandwidth profiles based on technology use.

Based on how many users and how many devices you have today, and how how those numbers may change over the next 5 years, your bandwidth growth rate will vary. If you have moderate technology use today but plan to implement a 1:1 program, your bandwidth needs will grow much faster than a district who is already largely media-rich.

How Fast Will Bandwidth Needs Grow?