Remote education is becoming the new norm for many students around the globe, with educators providing distance learning and digital tools to meet the demand of students. One big challenge is the connectivity component—as many underserved student populations might not have internet access—but a new program and some grant money might help address this hurdle.

Multi-Tech Systems just announced it is enabling teachers, students, and families to leverage Federal grant money to secure a remote connection for entire student populations—including the some 40% without broadband internet access at home. This is targeted at SIs (systems integrators) and IT (information technology) service organizations working with education communities and leverages CBRS (Citizens Broadband Radio Service) and traditional public cellular networks to connect Chromebooks, laptops, and Wi-Fi routers to private LTE OnGo networks in order to extend internet service to students in their homes.

Here is a closer look at how it works: MultiTech’s OnGo devices are now discounted for the educational community to speed adoption and connect a wide range of assets. CBRS is used sparingly by the U.S. government and other entities and was identified by the FCC as additional spectrum for shared wireless private broadband. OnGo enables easy deployment of private LTE networks for distance learning and internet connectivity for rural and underserved locations where public cellular and Wi-Fi networks exist. The benefits here also include cost efficiency and security. The solution protects students and faculty from potential security and privacy issues.

To enable this, MultiTech has partnered with distributors to provide special pricing to the education community to allow many school systems to add a MultiConnect microCell CBRS modem to the USB port of Chromebooks or Windows Notebooks. For multi-student homes, the MultiConnect eCell CBRS to Ethernet bridge pairs with choice of Wi-Fi hot spots with a Ethernet cable to make it easy to attach a large number of devices to the internet over a CBRS network at home or anywhere there is OnGo coverage. Further, the OnGo network backhaul lets the school system control internet traffic for student safety and to avoid competition with other local service providers.

This addresses the a major challenge that has existed since the COVID-19 pandemic began—providing connectivity for those without. As an example, at the onset of the crisis, NCRERN staff conducted phone interviews with district officials and other leaders from 40 out of its 49 partner rural districts in Ohio and New York. It found that while some districts only had a handful of students without internet, in others as many as 33% of students could not access the internet. Meanwhile other estimates put that number a little bit closer to 40%. According to the 2018 American Community Survey, 96,000 households in Baltimore (40.7%) did not have wireline internet service, such as cable, fiber, or digital subscriber line service. More specifically, in Baltimore City, nearly 20,000 households with children under the age of 17 do not have wireline broadband or computers at home. These are just a few examples. We also know, across the country, rural districts face more hurdles in providing remote instruction, due to lack of connectivity.

The good news is steps like the ones MultiTech are taking look to bridge that gap and bring connectivity to those who need it most, giving students a way to reliably and securely connect to education.

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