Digital equity
in education:
How Wireless
Business Internet
can help

Author: Katie McNeil

Today, access to technology is access to education. Students who cannot access reliable high-speed internet may not perform as well in school and are less likely to go to college.

Digital equity in education affects nearly one-third of public school students in the U.S. Many households—especially low-income and rural ones—still lack the devices and high-speed internet necessary for learning. Additionally, 40% of schools lack broadband altogetherThe impact of digital equity and learning preference further exacerbates inequities. Without high-speed internet, students may not be able to access their preferred learning method (high-quality video, for instance) and could be forced to rely on a less personally effective method. Ultimately, this limited access to education has the potential to translate into limited access to economic advancement.

The effects of digital disconnection are lifelong. Luckily, technological advancements can help meet the challenge. Wireless business internet and private 5G networks can be leveraged to help improve student internet access on school campuses, and help level the digital playing field.

Digital equity in education: Community solutions

Boosted by new pandemic-related funding, schools have started to narrow the digital divide. Pre-pandemic, 16 million students lacked access to a working device. That number is now closer to 12 million. But many solutions are stopgaps, with 75% of digital equity efforts set to expire in one to three years, according to Boston Consulting Group.

Devices are only part of the solution. High-speed internet connection on school campuses is imperative to improving digital equity in education. According to Connected Nation, 47% of schools still lack the recommended internet connectivity speed of 1 Mbps per student. Districts that meet or exceed the 1 Mbps per student goal are better prepared for an increasingly device-dependent classroom. Lack of high-speed internet only exacerbates the impact of digital equity and learning preference limitations, effectively gatekeeping access to high-quality resources and emerging learning technologies.

To improve digital equity in education, community-based partnerships with stakeholders, both public and private, may be necessary to take on the task of expanding broadband infrastructure. Innovative technologies like wireless business internet and private 5G networks can help ensure underserved populations have equal access to high-speed broadband internet (and the innovative learning modalities it supports) which can help alleviate the impact of the digital divide.

What is Wireless Business Internet?

Powered by 4G LTE and/or 5G technology, wireless business internet solutions use radio frequencies to wirelessly connect schools and businesses to high-speed broadband. Without the need for last-mile connectivity of laying fiber or cables, it is a cost-effective solution for expanding internet access in rural areas.

What are private 5G networks?

A private 5G network is a private network that provides high speed connectivity for organizations including educational institutions. Regardless of whether or not the premises are within a public 5G coverage area or even indoors or outdoors, private 5G networks can bring a custom-tailored 5G experience where high-speed, high-capacity, low-latency connectivity is crucial.

The traditional high-cost, DIY approach of school networking may lack the reliability, scalability and security educational institutions needed for robust digital learning. In contrast, private wireless 5G networks offer easy and affordable deployment, 25 Mbps connection speeds and multi-user capacity. Private 5G networks can also help boost the inherent privacy of on-premises networking with controlled authorized user access and device management.

The FCC's opening of the Citizens Broadband Radio Services (CBRS) 3.5 GHz spectrum band expands accessibility for enterprises and schools alike. Using this spectrum's General Authorized Access (GAA), schools and businesses can build their own private 5G network to connect devices both on and off campus. Schools in California, Utah and Texas have done just that.

How wireless business internet and private 5G networks can help improve digital equity in schools

Wireless business internet and private 5G networks can help improve digital equity in education. Here's how:


Research from GSMA Intelligence suggests 5G mid-band plus mmWave fixed wireless access may avoid some costs associated with wireline construction  in rural towns lacking existing fiber infrastructure. 5G has transformed wireless business internet into a truly viable and cost-effective broadband option.

Rapidly deployable in rural areas

Without the need for cables or fiber, wireless business internet is rapidly deployable in rural areas, where the digital divide is most pronounced. Alternatively, using a private 5G network can help ensure all learners—rural and urban—benefit from the high speed, low latency and reliability needed to succeed in school.

Scalable for the future

As 5G networks evolve, they are expected to achieve massive scale, with 10 to 100 times more capacity than 4G networks. 5G internet speed and reliability can help ensure communities are prepared for the continued digital transformation in education.

High performance

Wireless business internet users can get the speed, capacity, coverage and performance that's ideal for bandwidth-intensive and latency-sensitive use cases, such as video, immersive and collaborative applications—all necessary in educational settings.


5G speeds enable schools to experiment with immersive learning modalities like virtual reality, lessening the impact of digital equity and learning preference limitations. Even remote students may be able to access these emerging technologies, leveling the digital playing field.

Advancement requires access

Advancement in today's digital economy requires access. When students are digitally disconnected, they suffer in school settings and may be limited in their economic opportunities later in life. Partnerships with technology providers who specialize in education technology solutions can help digital equity in education and give students access to the skills and knowledge needed to succeed.

Discover how Verizon can help inspire great learning through technology solutions that address the holistic needs of students and teachers.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.