The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) announced it is expanding its partnership with the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation with a new project to research, pilot and analyze emerging wireless technologies that can reduce the homework gap, particularly in rural areas. In 2019, the Friday Institute began a pilot program by deploying the first CBRS base station on NC State University’s campus.
“Cellular hotspots are great assets under the right circumstances to meet immediate needs, but different technologies that create permanent solutions are needed to ensure that all students, especially those who don’t live near a tower, can fully participate in remote learning,” said Jeff Sural, director of the North Carolina Broadband Infrastructure Office, a key partner of the Friday Institute. “Projects like this one will help identify those long-term solutions and permanently create more equitable access to high-speed internet and educational opportunities in our state.”
The Friday Institute will seek solutions that align with goals of other state agencies around issues like rural healthcare and rural economic development, but the primary focus will be on K-12 student access while away from school. Tens of thousands of North Carolinians live in locations that are not served by any internet provider, so this program will specifically target K-12 students who live in those areas.
For over a decade, the Friday Institute has been a trusted partner to NCDPI on issues related to school connectivity and technology infrastructure. The TIL team’s expertise includes a mix of network and computer engineering, public policy, education and analytics.
Beginning in 2015, the TIL team increased its focus on wireless, as it was viewed as the most important networking technology on the horizon. The TIL was instrumental in the execution of NCDPI’s WiFi Expansion Program, which leveraged FCC E-rate funding to ensure every classroom in the state had WiFi. In May 2018, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai visited a North Carolina high school to celebrate this accomplishment—the first state in the nation to reach this goal.
CBRS, which enables organizations to build their own private cellular networks, could be an important component in solving the homework gap.
The TIL has also provided input to the FCC’s formal rulemaking process on many topics related to wireless spectrum, including the 2.5 GHz Educational Broadband Service and unlicensed use of 6 GHz for WiFi.
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