Educational Services Commission of New Jersey: More than Half of New Jersey School Districts Saving Millions Through Cooperative Purchasing of High-Speed Internet Access

More than Halfof New Jersey School Districts Saving Millions Through Cooperative Purchasing of High-Speed Internet Access

Co-op Cuts the Price of Broadband Access to 329 School Districts, Saving $375 Million Over Seven Years

 

 

PISCATAWAY – January 18, 2022 –It was a project launched in 2014 to bring world-class Internet service to school districts in New Jersey.

Today, the “New Jersey Digital Readiness for Learning Assessment Project” (NJDRLAP) has been more successful than most could have expected, helping more than 427 educational institutions, including 329 school districts, save money on technology.

The ESCNJ estimates that NJDRLAP has achieved $375 million in reduced costs per Mbps for Internet access through the first seven years of the program. That’s an average of more than $50 million annually, enough money to keep 600 teachers in New Jersey classrooms.

In 2021, NJDRLAP added 78 institutions to the program, including school districts, charter schools, non-public schools, and private organizations, an increase of 22 percent from 2020.

The project – reaching an estimated 730,000 students in the state – was conceived by the state Department of Education to help school districts close the “digital divide.” Today, it is managed by the ESCNJ, the largest cooperative purchasing organization in New Jersey.

“This is one of our most successful member initiatives in New Jersey; we couldn’t be prouder of the enormous participation in the program as well as the taxpayer money that has been saved,” said ESCNJ Schools Superintendent Mark Finkelstein. “The goal of this co-op is to make high-speed Internet access available to every student in New Jersey. I’m pleased to say we’re well on our way toward achieving that goal.”

Finkelstein noted the program also helped schools adapt to the Covid-19 pandemic, providing new opportunities for at-home teaching and learning. For example, the program helped 84 New Jersey school districts connect 195,000 student devices last year.

“Also, we are pleased that 58 public charter schools, non-public schools andeducational non-profits have also taken advantage of the program, to date,” Finkelstein said. “We have developed a program that reaches every county in the state, representing schools big and small, rural and urban, wealthy and poor, from pre-kindergarten to high school.  It has become a model co-op, and a world-class example of what we can accomplish together.”

Before the NJDRLAP program began in 2014, more than 17 percent of participating schools were struggling with copper lines to connect to the Internet. Today, almost all school districts use fiber connections.

Anthony La Marco, the ESCNJ business administrator, explained the enormous savings is realized by bundling the demand for advanced telecom services.

“The ESCNJ co-op helps local telecom providers make more productive investments in the New Jersey economy, which benefits businesses, hospitals andindividual citizens, as well as schools and government organizations,” La Marco said.

Before the program began, the average Internet connection for participating school entities was 348 Megabits per second (Mbps). Today, they are buying 1,940 Mbps, almost two Gigabits per second.

While bandwidth is up, costs are down. The average price for Internet access is 29 percent less than the previous contract. The co-op was able to further reduce prices from $1,991 to $1,405 per month, on average. In other terms, the 2021 contract further reduces the average monthly price per Mbps for Internet access by 52 percent, from $1.69 to 81 cents.

“Besides faster Internet access, co-op members are using the NJDRLAP contract to connect multiple campus locations and government buildings together for a super-fast information exchange,” La Marco said. “These co-op circuits are meeting the `need-for-speed’ for schools and municipalities statewide,” he said.

“If these schools had to pay pre-NJDRLAP prices for their current levels of service, they would have needed to make very difficult decisions: buy less Internet, cut spending elsewhere or raise taxes,” Finkelstein added. “Fortunately, the ESCNJ offers a better alternative: buy more for less through our co-op.”

Municipal agencies and local governments may participate, as well.

Purchasing from the NJDRLAP co-op is easy. Visit ESCNJ’s new members’ website (www.escnj.us/members) and select “Telecommunications” from the drop-down menu for the NJDRLAP program.

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