How Atlanta Schools Ensured Broadband Access for Students During COVID-19

Students across the country lack reliable broadband access.

While it may come as a surprise to some, many students across the country continue to lack internet access outside of school hours. Without such access, students aren’t able to take advantage of the host of online resources available to those who have at-home wireless networks. What’s worse, as schools have increasingly embraced technology for daily instruction, the impact of these and other technology inequities continue to grow.

These issues came to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic’s early days. As schools rapidly adopted remote learning practices during March and April 2020, they quickly faced issues of device equity among their students. Even schools with enough Chromebooks for each student were challenged by widespread gaps in internet access among households.

Below, we outline how one school district–the Atlanta Public Schools (APS)–leveraged a partnership with Comcast to provide broadband access for their students’ households and discuss the ways in which CTS can support schools across the country in ensuring high-quality, reliable internet access for their students.

Atlanta Public Schools partnered with Comcast to ensure students had broadband access during remote learning.

Like other schools across the country that launched remote learning programs, APS moved rapidly to understand the scope of students’ internet needs. The district began tracking which students didn’t show up to scheduled Zoom classes and then worked with Comcast to conduct targeted outreach to these and other families they felt lacked the foundational tools for remote learning.

For some families, simply signing up for internet service proved cumbersome, so APS worked with Comcast to simplify the registration process. Of course, their families simply couldn’t afford a monthly internet service charge for many of these students. To support these families, APS offered to cover the cost of twelve months of internet service for eligible households and handled all of the billing directly: no small-type paperwork, paper bills in the mail, or apps to download. Where students’ service had been cut off for lack of bill payment, APS covered the outstanding bill amount so students could get back online.

This public-private partnership undoubtedly provided hundreds, if not thousands, of APS students with the internet service they needed to engage in remote learning. By collaborating with Comcast, APS helped mitigate students’ learning loss during the pandemic and ensured students didn’t miss out on online instructional content simply because they lacked internet access at home.

CTS can help schools source high-quality internet service for in-person learning.

At CTS, we source and monitor high-quality broadband service to help keep schools running during the school day. The last thing a school administrator needs in the middle of a busy day is a network outage. Because of this, we proactively monitor schools’ networks to ensure continuity of service; when problems do arise, we spring into action and are only a call away. Our team also allows school leaders to stay ahead of the game and resolve any network issues before they arise by planning for any necessary system upgrades. By minimizing the disruptions these outages can produce, CTS supports student learning and helps ease day-to-day school stress for administrators and teachers alike.

We can also support schools in procuring wireless hotspots and other at-home learning devices.

Of course, online learning increasingly occurs outside the school’s walls. CTS works with schools to source, procure, and set up at-home learning devices that can support remote instruction to adapt to this changing environment. From individual student Chromebooks and webcams to wireless hotspots, our team has both the track record in supporting remote learning and the technical know-how to ensure schools can extend instruction beyond their building’s wireless network.

What’s more, our transparently priced service packages give schools the financial certainty they need to invest scarce resources into other instructional priorities. By knowing they’ll have to spend “x” number of dollars on technical support each quarter or semester, a school leader can choose to invest in additional classroom library materials, science curriculum kits, or even remote learning hardware to support online instruction.

At CTS, we help schools use technology to accomplish their unique missions.

We view ourselves as deeply ingrained in the mission of our partner schools. From Atlanta to New York City and schools across the country, our team can help schools make the most of their technology resources to accomplish their unique missions. From new schools opening their doors for the first time to more established schools looking to improve their technology programming, CTS can offer your school leadership team a service package that makes sense for your unique needs and help solve for many of the most common remote learning challenges. Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help your school accomplish its unique mission.

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