KCPS moves to unlimited data plan for students’ hotspots after some frustrations

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Here’s an issue your family can probably relate to: your cell phone’s data usage and whether or not you should pay more for the unlimited plan.

That’s the discussion Kansas City Public Schools had Friday afternoon during a special meeting with their board of directors. Their discussion, however, was on a much larger scale involving student Wi-Fi hotspots.

KCPS board members voted to buy into an unlimited data plan for student hotspots after realizing students would regularly run through their monthly speedy-data allotments — even when doing the bare minimum of virtual schoolwork.

The unanimous vote will cost the district an extra $210,000, bringing their contract cost with T-Mobile to $420,000.

During the meeting KCPS IT Director Joe Philips said that amount of money is the total of adding $10 for each individual hotspot plan.

The money is coming from the IT Department’s contingency budget, which is being used as it was designed, Superintendent Mark Bedell said.

“We’re not in a 911 situation, but we will have these emergency meetings as needed if things pop up,” Bedell said.

Philips also suggested that the decision will solve oncoming problems before those issues become widespread. Some of those concerns were addressed during a Q&A discussion following the proposal.

“So I’ve been observing on some of the Facebook pages for the various schools some frustration. It seemed to be more on the virtual side,” KCPS Board Member Jennifer Wolfsie said while trying to determine if the issues were related to internet speeds or hardware.

Philips said he thinks the issues are likely related to internet speeds.

“We’re communicating with all of our parents to get a hotspot for each of their students so they’re not sharing that 11 MB pipe,” Philips said, using the metaphor of a pipe for internet speeds.

The unlimited data plan will also “keep the fast data pipe open,” meaning less slow-down problems during video-learning, Philips said.

Currently, once the 2 GB limit is surpassed, student hotspots only had access to internet at speeds of 128 kilobytes per second. That’s a very slow internet speed, comparatively.

“Just as a point of reference, to run a Microsoft Teams video meeting like we are right now, we’re using a minimum of 3 Mbps. To do an Edgenuity lesson we need to download on average at least 110 MB,” Philips said.

Once the contract with T-Mobile is signed, unlimited data for student hotspots should go into effect within 48-72 hours, Philips said.

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