Budget and Policy Post
January 13, 2015

Snapshot of Internet Usage in Schools

Internet Usage Information Comes From Two State Databases. The state has one database (DataLINK) that periodically tracks self-reported data from schools about their Internet usage and tracks how many schools connect to the Corporation for Educational Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) backbone. This database includes information about schools’ Internet infrastructure, speeds, and service providers. (Data on infrastructure generally is more limited than data on speeds and service providers.) In addition, the state has a second database—the California Basic Educational Data System (CBEDS)—that tracks on an annual basis the number of devices per student.

Internet Speeds Vary Across the State. DataLINK contains information from 96 percent of schools statewide. The median speed of schools reporting is 100 Mbps, though speeds vary considerably. As shown in Figure 1, about 27 percent of schools report speeds 10 megabits or slower per second (Mbps)—typically associated with the slowest types of Internet infrastructure. In contrast, 39 percent report having Internet speeds between 11 and 100 Mbps and 34 percent report having speeds greater than 100 Mbps. Additional data collected by the state in 2014 to award grants to schools for infrastructure improvements shows that 349 schools do not have fast enough speeds to administer the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium tests. The majority of these schools are elementary schools.

Internet Speed at Schools

Schools Use a Variety of Commercial Providers and CENIC for Their Internet Service. Of schools reporting to DataLINK, 77 percent included information about their last-mile commercial providers. The most commonly used commercial providers for last-mile connections is AT&T (40 percent). Another 8 percent report using Comcast or Verizon. The remaining schools use various other commercial providers, including smaller regional providers. DataLINK also reports that 83 percent of schools use the CENIC backbone to connect to the Internet.

Five Students to One Device Is State Average. The most recent data from CBEDS for the 2011-12 school year indicate that the average number of students per school-owned device was five. Elementary schools had the highest ratio of students to computers (six students to one device) and middle and junior high schools had the lowest ratio of students to computers (four students to one device). High schools had five students to each device.