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Tools and resources to help you successfully navigate the procurement of home Internet solutions for your students.


If you have taken steps to identify students that lack home digital access and explored potential connectivity solutions, the next is determining whether your school district is willing and able to assume financial responsibility for connecting students and their families.

Pay for Home
Internet Service
for Your Families

Promote Low-Cost
Internet Options
to Your Families

Our school district budget calculator can help you determine whether you can support connectivity and device access for your students.


Procurement Options

There are several ways school districts are addressing home internet access gaps for their students. Choose an option that is best for you: 


Public-private partnerships with ISPs


Residential mobile hotspots and wireline solutions


Private wireless networks and community Wi-Fi.

There are two kinds of eligibility criteria to consider as you plan your procurement. While some procurements may define eligibility simply as families that lack home Internet without any additional eligibility criteria, others may include additional criteria or requirements to help prioritize students and make the best use of available funds. Determining which students will be eligible for your support will help define the scale and budget of your program.  Make sure the eligibility criteria are designed to ensure families with the highest need are first in line for free Internet service.

The second category of eligibility depends on the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) you engage with in the procurement process. Some ISPs have their own eligibility requirements that families must meet in order to qualify for their low-cost plans. For example, Comcast Internet Essentials requires that families must be eligible for at least one public assistance program and cannot have been a Comcast Internet customer within the last 90 days.

Case Study: Learn How Chicago is Providing Stable High-Speed Internet Access to Students who Need it the Most

Whether your district is entering into a service agreement after your RFP process or foregoing that step altogether, it is vital to ensure the chosen Internet service plan is viable for participating students and easy for families to adopt. 

  1. Opting into the service should be simple
  2. Activation of the service should be safe and easy
  3. The ISP should provide dedicated customer service agents
  4. Customer service representatives should never upsell enrolled families

Best Practices for Low-Cost Residential Broadband


Public-Private Partnerships with ISPs

Public-private partnerships with ISPs can help to create sustainable solutions to the home access gap. Crucially, these partnerships can streamline the process to identify which student households need to be connected. Procurement leads should reach out to available ISPs to begin a conversation about exchanging student address data to understand serviceability and eligibility for student households. 

ISPs will review the address list to confirm whether or not they currently serve the address or if not, whether they can serve the address within 10 days.  With a good understanding of unconnected student homes, an RFP can be issued to initiate the formal procurement process, define your requirements and project scope, encourage competition and bid proposals, and negotiate terms with the winning bidder. 

This model eliminates the risk for ISPs by guaranteeing participating ISPs are paid through a single approved fiscal agent, and enables them to draw from a new customer segment while eliminating the risk of defaults.

  • Comprehensive, long-term, sustainable
  • Competitive process and aggregated procurement attracts ISPs and lowers the cost
  • ISPs can deliver serviceability data for needs assessment
  • Philanthropic funders are keen to support this kind of solution, e.g. the community of funders in Chicago

  • Complicated logistics to deploy
  • Requires a critical mass of demand, either large districts or aggregation
  • Requires management to ensure successful family adoption
  • Cost burden on districts

Resources:
K-12 Bridge to Broadband Initiative & Sponsored Service Look-Up Tool
Home Internet Solutions: RFP Templates
School District Mapping Tool
Case Study: Chicago Public Schools

Find broadband providers offering sponsored service partnerships as part of the K-12 Bridge to Broadband initiative:


Purchase & deploy commercial residential mobile (hotspots) and broadband (wireline) solutions to your students.  

During COVID-19 many school districts have leveraged emergency bidding provisions to act quickly without a formal RFP process. While this option can be quick and effective, to set your district up for long-term success with a clearly communicated vision and goals, click here to learn about using an RFP to procure Internet with ISPs while ensuring maximum alignment with your requirements.     

  • Wireline options offer a long-term, sustainable solution
  • Can be rapid to deploy, if leveraging emergency bidding provisions
  • No cost to families of students

  • Hotspots are not a long-term, sustainable solution because they rely on a cellular network,  data plans and bandwidth may be limiting, and they can be expensive
  • Emergency bidding provisions are temporary
  • Cost burden on districts

Resources:
Low-Cost Internet Offers Look-Up Tool  
Home Digital Access Map


Private wireless networks and community Wi-Fi options

Work with local providers to build a private wireless network or leverage a municipal project to deliver service at no cost to families – the “Non-Commercial Solutions” model.

Private Wireless Networks

  • Dedicated connectivity solution for students
  • More reliability and control over the quality of service

Community Wi-Fi options

  • Can be a comprehensive, long-term, sustainable option
  • Distributed cost burden across the community

Private Wireless Networks

  • Can be expensive and complicated to deploy
  • School district assumes more responsibility and management burden

Community Wi-Fi options

  • Not all of these projects are intended to be sustainable options (post-COVID)
  • Complicated logistics to deploy
  • Currently lacking federal policies to subsidize effectively

Resources:
Case Study – Innovative Solutions Help Lockhart ISD Connect Their Students