Broadband: DPI Resources to Address Access and Security

by Ed Snow, DPI Instructional Technology Services and Annette Smith, DPI Director of Instructional Media and Technology

How do we ensure that “every child graduates ready for further education and the workplace” in the midst of a pandemic?  Especially when the sudden migration to learn from home shined a spotlight on the digital learning gap.  In a world where education is not bound by the walls of a school, it is vital that all students have an equal opportunity to access learning.  This means high quality, affordable broadband must be a priority across WI and the nation.

Prior to the COVID outbreak, PEW research indicated that nearly 1 in 5 students across the country lived with no or insufficient Internet service.  In Wisconsin, that means approximately 140,000 students could not access learning opportunities.  Districts across the state raced to find solutions to help close the digital learning gap.  Utilizing a plethora of resources, this number was reduced dramatically, but areas of the state are still disadvantaged. These include rural areas, low income households, and communities, and many tribal nation locations.   Additionally, many of the solutions are short term.  For example, sending home a hotspot, drive up access locations, and limited discounted offers for broadband services.  As we look forward permanent solutions are required. 

 As we near the start of what is certain to be a unique year there are many resources the Wisconsin DPI has developing.    These resources provide flexibility to help teachers, families and students with access, affordability, devices, and data/cyber security. 


  • The Wisconsin DPI is partnering with student information system vendors to create an efficient home internet survey process. 
  • The Public Service Commission continues to manage the Broadband Expansion Grants program.  The next cycle opens September 1. 
  • Local communities working with partners to find solutions that work for their unique environments.  For example, using rural towers to provide wireless access.
  • CARES funds can be used to provide hotspots.
  • Drive up location map hosted by the Wisconsin Pubilc Service Commission 


  • CESA 2 purchasing is highlighting offers from local telcos who are offering discounted internet access to families.  These offers can be paid for by the school/districts using CARES funds.
  • CARES funds can also be used to pay for hotspots including the internet service.
  • The PSC has a Discount Finder, which can be used by families to find discounted offers based on their address.


  • CARES funds can be used to purchase devices for students.

Data and cyber security

  • TEACH grant dollars for rural areas are available to assist with infrastructure.
  • CARES funds can be used to purchase training materials including those offered through state contracts and CESA 2 purchasing.
  • The Student Data Privacy Consortium is available to all WI schools when purchasing or renewing software licenses.  Please use the service to verify purchases meet basic data security requirements.

Work continues in each of these areas, across the state.  Please reach out to us with any ideas that you might have to continue these efforts.  

Read more at:


Elementary Edition - Secondary Edition - District Level Edition