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Datacasting for Education

Overcoming Broadband Inequity

How SpectraRep's EduCast service uses datacasting to help with distance learning

The pandemic required America’s teachers and children to operate in a completely virtual environment for many months during the 2020-2021 school years. The difficulties of remote learning were felt across the country and reinforced a major obstacle that has challenged our education system for a long time: students without access to broadband in their homes.

For families that live below the poverty line or in rural communities without broadband, finding and affording internet access can be difficult. The gap between the classroom and broadband for all is still lingering for many students. Remote learning has applications year-round: summer school, remedial work, and weather events that can close schools – to name a few ways it can be used.

Now, even as schools gear up to go back to the classroom in the fall of 2021, many families will opt to maintain virtual participation and students will need to access their homework and school materials online. Without access to broadband, millions of children will continue to fall dramatically behind in learning. It’s often referred to as the #homeworkgap.

SpectraRep is actively working to overcome broadband access problems with its EduCast datacasting service. Datacasting turns a portion of the public television spectrum into a secure wireless data network that can deliver assignments and course materials over the air.

For students, EduCast gives them at-home access to instructional materials through reliable broadcast transmissions without needing an internet connection. For teachers, it gives them the ability to broadcast instructional content directly from their computer to a student’s Chromebook or tablet.

“Our EduCast solution is touching thousands of students across the nation. As we continue to deploy the technology, it’s inspiring to see how EduCast is leveling the educational playing field.”

Mark O’Brien, SpectraRep CEO.

Learn more now:

  • How EduCast makes distance learning available to families without broadband
  • How the South Carolina Department of Education is exploring the use of EduCast’s datacasting technology for education
  • How the new CARES Act offers funding for school systems trying to tackle distance learning challenges.
  • Partnership with US antenna manufacturer Winegard to use Flatwave Amped indoor antennas to deliver network connectivity
  • Watch the Datacasting video series on our YouTube page
  • Sign up for our mailing list

How EduCast Supports Distance Learning

SpectraRep datacasting, in partnership with public television broadcasters around the country, delivers a reliable, cost-effective, proven solution for emergency communications.

Datacasting uses existing broadcast television signals to deliver encrypted data such as video and critical content. To date, SpectraRep datacasting has been used to deliver content to emergency responders (e.g., local police, fire and EMTs).

SpectraRep datacasting has been deployed around the country. A few locations include Washington DC Park Police, Houston Texas police department, Las Vegas police and fire departments, and Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security. 

Now, SpectraRep is working with partners in broadcasting and education to examine how datacasting can be used to bring online educational materials to students in a safe, secure manner. Our educational service is delivered through our EduCast datacasting technology.

What does EduCast deliver for students and teachers?

With EduCast datacasting technology uses an inexpensive tuner and TV antenna to let students and teachers access any type of instructional content and educational resources that would normally require direct access to the internet.

Most importantly, it means that students and teachers can engage in meaningful educational interactions that are safe. All content sent through datacasting is encrypted and targeted to specific recipients to ensure transmission privacy and security for everyone involved.

The EduCast service is an innovative concept that can help provide instructional content to students without internet access. More on how states are using funds from the CARE legislation to help increase their remote learning capabilities here.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly comments on the use of datacasting for educational purposes:

I have been closely following how public television stations are already deploying datacasting capabilities for both homeland security and educational purposes, taking advantage of centralized and extensive public networks to reach students and children across the country. 

Especially during these trying times for our nation, the value of free over-the-air, high quality, instructive lessons to be provided by schools to students who are at home could not be greater.  What’s more, these stations are not only focused on bolstering the great work they already do on the educational and informational programming front; they are also working alongside the agricultural industry on forward-looking applications for datacasting in that sector, and there are other industrial uses being explored as well.  They are on the frontlines providing valuable data points as this technology is being deployed and used.

South Carolina Department of Education Explores Use of EduCast

According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), nearly half a million South Carolinians reside in areas that fall below that agency’s standard for broadband connectivity. With schools closed, those shortfalls are limiting the ability of students to keep up with their peers.

To address the problem, SpectraRep is working with the South Carolina ETV (SCETV) and South Carolina Department of Education to explore how to leverage EduCast’s datacasting service to support students without access to internet.

Source: South Carolina ETV (SCETV)

Five Facts about the Project

  1. SCETV is partnering with SCDE and SpectraRep to explore the potential for datacasting technology to support education.
  2. Nearly half a million South Carolinians reside in areas that fall below the Federal Communications Commission’s standard for broadband connectivity.
  3. Datacasting will enable SCETV’s 11 high-power television transmitters to transmit computer data to specifically targeted computers. Students studying at home will be targeted to receive the same content broadband enabled students’ access over the Internet
  4. Currently, the organizations are working together to identify needs and outline objectives for the project.
  5. Among the next steps for the project are identifying appropriate content, enrolling educators, and selecting pilot test sites for education, then exploring ways to support public safety.

Here is what those involved in the South Carolina project have to say:
Click each name to see what they have to say.

“South Carolina’s digital divide has unfortunately made remote learning for students and educators in our rural areas difficult. Until we can bridge this gap, we must continue to be innovative in pursuit of our shared goal of ensuring students and their families have the tools and resources needed to be successful. I appreciate SCETV’s commitment and willingness to explore every available option.”

“SCETV and the S.C. Department of Education are playing a pioneering role in an exciting new application of the power of datacasting. This initiative may well be a model for such partnerships across the country, combining the deep experience and expertise of public television in education, the technological innovation of SpectraRep and the commitment of far-sighted leaders like Superintendent Spearman to ensure that every student has access to high-quality educational content and services.”

“Although datacasting technology has been used in public safety and other areas across the country, we believe this is the first occasion it’s been used specifically to support education. As we continue to explore the application of datacasting to serve our educators and students, we also plan to leverage this technology to support South Carolina emergency management and public safety information sharing and interoperability needs as well.” (Abbreviated quote – click to read full quote.)

Read more about the South Carolina project.

If you are interested in getting a project up and running in your county, email us to set up a discussion.

What Are the Benefits of EduCast?
EduCast uses datacasting over public television broadcast spectrum to deliver a powerful solution for remote learning for three main reasons:

  1. Datacasting is a low-cost, long-term sustainable technology to push secure video, voice and data to teachers and students over a wide area.
  2. Datacasting uses broadcasting technology to deliver content to an unlimited number of receivers within its large coverage area.
  3. Datacasting overcomes issues of broadband inequity.

New CARES Act Funding Opportunity

On April 16, 2020, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) announced plans for the distribution of the $75 million provided to public broadcasting through the CARES Act.

The funding will be evenly split between television and radio, with each station receiving a base grant and small rural stations receiving an additional amount of funding. The base grant for public television stations will be $200,000 and small rural stations will receive an additional $60,204. CPB plans to distribute the funding as soon as they receive it from OMB.

Additionally, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that the Department is making available the $3 billion in the Governors’ Emergency Education Relief fund that was part of the $31 billion allocated to education funding through the CARES Act. The Governor’s fund was the smallest of the education funds created by the Act, but Governors have tremendous flexibility in using the funds for any educational needs from pre-k through post-secondary education, including work with outside educational organizations. There are numerous opportunities for public television stations to partner with their state and local education agencies around distance learning services during this crisis, and that work could be supported by some of these funds.

For more details, visit the CBP website.

Want more Information or Ready to Get Started?

SpectraRep wants to be your partner in your education efforts during this difficult time. Contact us at (703) 227-9690 or to set up a conversation.