Procurement Resources for School Districts.
A step-by-step guide to help you successfully navigate the procurement of home Internet solutions for your students.

Effective remote learning starts with a home Internet connection and a dedicated learning device for every student.

If you have taken steps to identify students that lack home digital access and explored potential connectivity solutions, our procurement toolkit can help you implement the next stage of your plans.

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Step 1 | Plan

The first step in your procurement process is determining whether your school district is willing and able to assume financial responsibility for connecting students and their families. If the answer is ‘no’, click here to move to Step 3 (Option #1).

Resources:
Use our school district budget calculator to determine whether you can support connectivity and device access for your students.

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Step 2 | Eligibility

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.

Eligibility consideration should be determined using a weighting of factors including free and reduced-price lunch status, Medicaid qualifications, as well as special student populations such as diverse learners, English Learners, and students in temporary living situations (STLS). 

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Step 3 | Research Options  

There are several ways school districts are addressing home internet access gaps for their students (in order of most common to least common). Choose an option that is best for you.

SOLUTION #1 | COMMERCIAL 

Note: Many school districts choose to blend the two “Commercial Solutions” outlined in Option #1 and #2 below.

Option #1 | Provide guidance for families to procure directly.

If your school district is unable to purchase or manage solutions for your students’ families, take steps to collate and communicate low-cost provider options. To ensure effective adoption for your families, a best practice is to support parents through the application process, as some of the forms and requirements can be confusing or burdensome.

Some districts have led proactive calling campaigns to reach out to families by phone and explain the options, while others have leveraged existing technology support help desks to respond to inbound requests – in either case, some district staffing capacity is needed for effective implementation of this solution.

It is vital to ensure the Internet service plans you are recommending have service agreements that are viable for students in low-income households. Review your options for these four categories:

1

The plan must be affordable.

2

Signing up for service should be simple.

3

The plan must meet the minimum bandwidth speeds to be considered broadband (25 Mbps download / 3 Mbps upload).

4

Activation of service needs to be measured in days, not weeks.

  • If the district is simply communicating options without additional support, minimal logistics required for districts
  • Families own their own connectivity

  • If the school district intends to support families with low-cost applications, district staffing required
  • Cost burden on families
  • Lengthy applications are a high barrier to entry for low-cost options
  • Minimal oversight ability to monitor adoption
  • The school district needs to collate low-cost provider options (find solutions using our look-up tool)

Resources:
Use our Low-Cost Internet Offers Look-Up Tool to search by zip and uncover low-cost and other Internet service options, along with contact information to facilitate direct outreach.  

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Option #2 | 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 school district up for long-term success with a clearly communicated vision and goals, click here to learn about using an RFP to build a public-private partnership with ISPs.   

  • Wireline options offer a long-term, sustainable solution
  • Rapid deployment, leveraging emergency bidding provisions
  • No cost to families of students

  • Hotspots are not a long-term, sustainable solution and data plans may be limiting
  • Emergency bidding provisions are temporary
  • Cost burden on districts

Resources:
Use our Low-Cost Internet Offers Look-Up Tool to search by zip and uncover low-cost and other Internet service options, along with contact information to facilitate direct outreach.     

Use our School District Mapping Tool to visualize student connectivity data, find Internet service provider options for unconnected households, layer in alternative solutions like Wi-fi buses and community access points, and pinpoint solutions to procure and deploy.

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SOLUTION #2 | DISTRICT -ISP PARTNERSHIPS

Public-private partnerships with ISPs can help to create sustainable solutions to the home access gap. A formal RFP process can help to streamline needs assessment of serviceability for student households, eliminate the risk for ISPs by guaranteeing participating ISPs are paid through a single approved fiscal agent, and enable 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:
Use our School District Mapping Tool to visualize student connectivity data, find Internet service provider options for unconnected households, layer in alternative solutions like Wi-fi buses and community access points, and pinpoint solutions to procure and deploy.

Home Internet Solutions: RFP Templates

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SOLUTION #3 | NON-COMMERCIAL 

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

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Step 4 | Procure

For school districts interested in the “Public-private partnerships with ISP model,” use our high-quality RFP templates to procure Internet solutions to connect students at home.

If reaching out directly to providers in your community and negotiating without an RFP is your school district’s solution, move ahead to Step 5.   

Instructions

Please read a brief guide before using our RFP Templates

Residential Template

For use when seeking fixed residential broadband services, like a cable or DSL service

Mobile Template

For use when seeking mobile broadband services, like personal hotspots

All RFP Templates

Download mobile and residential templates

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Step 5 | Participation

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. 

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 up-sell enrolled families.

Resources:
Best Practices for Low-Cost Residential Broadband