BY JIM JACOBELLIS, SVP OF SALES
Alef, the builders of the next edge economy, recently attended the CoSN2023 (Consortium for School Networking) Annual Conference in Austin, TX. CoSN is an association that works with public, private, charter, and independent schools as well as educational service agencies. Attended by technical leaders for K-12 educators around the country. CoSN2023 emphasized that private mobile networks have the capability to reduce the homework gap and promote equity in K-12 education. A few of the key takeaways from the conference concerned the digital divide, government funding, and key use cases.
The Digital Divide is Still with Us
The digital divide refers to the gap between those with access to technology and the internet and those without access. This gap disproportionately affects low-income and rural communities, where families may not have access to high-speed internet at home. In many cases, K-12 students are forced to rely on public libraries, coffee shops, and other public spaces to access the internet, which can be inconvenient and unreliable. By providing reliable and secure internet access to all students, regardless of their home situation, schools can ensure that all students have access to the same educational resources and opportunities.
Funding Remains a Challenge But There is Hope
State and federal funding play a crucial role in addressing the digital divide in K-12 schools. In recent years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched several initiatives to increase internet access in schools, including the E-Rate program, which provides discounts on internet access and other telecommunications services for schools and libraries. Additionally, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided funding to schools for technology upgrades and remote learning. However, despite these efforts, many schools still lack adequate internet access, particularly in rural and low-income areas.
Private Network Use Cases are Emerging
A common use case for private cellular networks in K-12 schools is remote learning. While reliable and secure connectivity for students, faculty, and staff – inside and outside the buildings – are the main drivers behind the adoption of private networks in K-12 schools, other use cases are also becoming more popular. Such as:
The use of video cameras and campus access control systems to improve the safety of students, staff, and school property. By placing cameras in strategic locations throughout the school, administrators can monitor for suspicious activity and respond quickly in the event of an emergency. Cameras can also be used to deter bullying, vandalism, and other disruptive behaviors. Access control systems are also an essential component of school safety and security measures. These systems can be used to regulate entry and exit points, track visitor activity, and prevent unauthorized access to restricted area, such as administrative offices, computer labs, and storage areas. By using an access control system, schools can reduce the need for manual monitoring and security personnel, freeing up staff to focus on other important tasks.
Use of private cellular networks in K-12 schools for point-of-sale (POS) systems. Many schools use POS systems to manage their lunch programs, vending machines, and other financial transactions to become cashless, contactless, and more efficient. Some schools have fiber to the primary school buildings but not the sports stadiums, while others lack even Wi-Fi access in venues, making cellular-based POS desirable.
A private cellular network can provide this access, ensuring students can easily purchase meals and other items without disruption. Additionally, private cellular networks can provide a more secure connection for POS systems, protecting student and school financial data from potential cyber threats.
Providing connectivity and mobility to AR/VR equipment in schools for immersive learning. One enterprising company is deploying the necessary equipment if the school district can come up with 25% of the funding, with generous donors making up the remainder.
Other use cases for K-12 schools include environmental sensors and digital billboards.
Alef’s Private Mobile Network Mission Aligns with K-12 Institutions’ Vision
The CoSN provided us with continued guidance that our mission at Alef to provide reliable, secure, and affordable private mobile network solutions for K-12 schools is on the right path. With an Alef CBRS-based network, schools can be assured of getting better coverage and capacity than most existing Wi-Fi networks, with fewer access points needed, resulting in reduced handoffs. It can be positioned behind a school’s firewall and aligned with current IT infrastructure, simplifying user and device authentication, and is affordable on either a pay-as-you-go or monthly plan. If you would like to learn more about Alef’s Private Mobile Network Solution for K-12 institutions, please read our brief on the topic or contact us.