Cache-Connect Pilot Program (In Progress)
STUDENT DIGITAL EQUITY & THE HOMEWORK GAP
The issue of student equity for access to digital learning resources off campus is exacerbated as schools continue to make the digital transition. According to the FCC roughly 7 in 10 teachers assign homework requiring Internet access at home and one-third of those students lack adequate home Internet access. This lack of equity is known as the “Homework Gap”.
CACHE-CONNECT PILOT PROGRAM DESCRIPTION
Final Mile Communications (FMC) is piloting a Homework Gap solution called Cache-Connect. The strategy is to leverage existing on campus school networks, 1:1 Chromebook program and an offline-online capability for equitable student access to digital learning resources off campus.
On campus, teachers’ cache (download) their selected learning resources over the school network and directly onto their individual student devices. Once cached on student devices, data intensive videos and other media as well as low data materials such as worksheets, pdfs, etc. can be consumed anywhere offline.
Off campus, the teachers’ cache is accessible without need of Internet connectivity. For students without adequate or any home Internet access are issued a data-only fixed cellular Wi-Fi hotspot for the home. The offline support provided by the teachers’ device cache reduces the amount of home Internet speed and data required by these students for educational purposes. The home Wi-Fi connection is used for educational web research, email communications and general digital literacy functions.
CACHE-CONNECT OBJECTIVE: Affordable Off-Campus Digital Educational Resources
By reducing the student need for education-specific Internet data at home, the Pilot program presents an opportunity for wireless carriers to provide low data connections at a sustainably affordable cost. The strategy leverages the extensive infrastructure and coverage of existing wireless providers by imposing only a marginal, low-speed and low-capacity off campus network requirement. The strategy also leverages the relatively low cost Consumer Premises Equipment (CPE) of a mature industry. Since student network requirements are minimal, CPE equipment can be commensurate in cost.
For coverage on the network edge, especially in rural locations, the fixed home wireless configuration enables more reliable network access than a mobile application. Because the network requirements are data packets only, and not voice, once a reliable connection is established in the home that connection should remain continuous.