Home Internet for Kids in School: Best Types & Plans
From online research to video calls and virtual learning, picking the right Internet plan and provider is critical. We’ll break down what you need to know for the school season.
With the increase of technology both at home and in the classroom, along with remote learning becoming more common post-pandemic, having high-speed Internet access is more important than ever.
Below we have all the information you need about the types of Internet, speed, plans, and providers to keep your household digitally in sync for the school year.
How Much Internet Speed is Needed for Online Classes?
Virtual platforms, like Zoom, are often used for remote learning. But how fast does your home Internet really need to be to accommodate Zoom and other online learning platforms?
According to the Zoom system requirements, it really only takes about 1.5 Mbps for you to participate in one-on-one and group video calls with low resolution. For higher resolution, it’s best to have between 2.5-3 Mbps. You can use this speed test to determine whether your wireless connection is suitable for virtual learning.
Best Type of Internet for Online Classes & Virtual Learning
With so many options available, it can be difficult to determine which type of Internet plan will be most suitable for the needs of your family. Choosing the right plan can be a difficult task, so we’ll break down the options below.
Cable Internet is one of the most popular, fastest, and most convenient options for home Internet. Cable Internet uses a coaxial cable rather than a telephone line in order to connect your computer to the Internet.
With average speeds of 100 Mbps, cable is significantly faster than dial-up, DSL, and satellite Internet connections. Because of that, cable Internet is a great option for high-data usage video platforms for online classes.
Potential disadvantages may include high installation fees if a technician is required to install the cable (not always applicable). Plus, while cable is a high-speed option, fiber Internet offers a much faster speed. However, cable Internet offers plenty of speed for online learning and virtual classes.
Fiber-optic Internet connections differ from traditional wire-based ones by utilizing fiber optic cables composed of thin glass or plastic fibers which transmit data at much higher speeds than traditional phone or cable wires.
The major advantage of fiber-optic Internet is its speed, higher than most competing types of coverage, including DSL, cable, and satellite. Fiber-optic is ideal for attending large virtual meetings with little lag. As a result, it may be the best option for parents with kids in online classes.
However, fiber-optic Internet has limited availability and is likely to be the most expensive option on the market.
DSL, or digital subscriber line Internet, is one of the most widespread forms of Internet provider in the U.S. Unlike cable Internet, DSL is normally linked to a phone line rather than its own independent connection. Like cable, DSL uses wires rather than fiber-optic cables.
DSL Internet is less expensive than both cable and fiber-optic providers and relatively simple to install, usually requiring only a modem attached to your phone line, which can be self-installed.
However, the speed of DSL Internet pales in comparison to other broadband Internet options like cable and fiber-optic connections, although DSL is still significantly faster than dial-up and satellite Internet options. DSL Internet may be able to handle the connections required for basic virtual learning, but it may not be as seamless or fast as a cable or fiber provider - especially if you are working from home simultaneously.
5G Home Internet
Compared to broadband options, 5G home Internet may not be the best option for families with kids in school. Why? Because 5G Internet often offers slower speeds, experiences more lag, and supports fewer devices at once.
Cable or fiber Internet are better, more reliable options when it comes to remote learning.
Satellite Internet is not known for offering high speeds, however, the availability of satellite Internet is incredibly widespread.
If you live in a rural area and your children need reliable Internet for school, satellite Internet may be your only choice. Many satellite Internet providers offer speeds from 25-150 Mbps, which may be enough in some households.
In rural areas, we generally recommend cable Internet, if available.
What Providers Have the Best Plans for Families With Kids in School?
Here is a guide to some of the top Internet service providers available today and how their plans match up with the needs of kids in school.
Xfinity is one of the most popular providers in the nation, with coverage in 41 states and many major cities.
With its hybrid fiber-coaxial network, Xfinity offers anywhere from 50-1,200 Mbps, meaning you can easily accommodate virtual learning or simple Internet use for homework, regardless of how many devices are being used on your network. In limited areas, Xfinity even offers fiber Internet with speeds up to 6 Gbps.
Cox is the third-largest cable Internet provider in the U.S., offering home Internet and a public WiFi network of more than four million hotspots for use by Cox customers. These WiFi hotspots can be found in public areas throughout the Cox network.
With download speeds between 100 Mbps and 2 gigs, Cox is a reliable, high-speed choice for home Internet service.
Optimum offers cable and fiber Internet to more than 20.6 million people across 21 states.
From 300 Mbps to a whopping 8 Gbps, Optimum has both cable and fiber options that can be great for families with kids in school.
Mediacom is currently the sixth-largest cable Internet provider in the country, providing service to 7.5 million people.
Xtream by Mediacom offers whole-home coverage, along with a great network reliability rating, making it a strong choice for eligible households. Plus, it offers speeds from 100 Mbps to 2 Gbps.
Sparklight provides Internet service to 23 states and reaches 5.5 million people. This Arizona-based provider uses coaxial lines to bring fiber speeds to its customers at a lower cost than many other providers.
To suit the needs of children in school with remote classes, online research, video calls, and more, you can choose from Sparklight Internet plans that range from 300 Mbps to 1 gig.
As one of the top Internet providers in Alaska, GCI is perfect for any household with Internet needs, from virtual learning to streaming to gaming.
GCI offers its Fast plan of 250 Mbps to its red Unlimited plan with speeds up to 2.5 Gbps.
If you are within Fidelity’s coverage area, the Internet options offered are fast, reliable, and affordable.
In fact, Fidelity has plans from 300 Mbps up to 1 Gbps. Depending on your household’s Internet needs, any of Fidelity’s plans may offer enough bandwidth for families with kids in school.
As one of the top providers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and more, Armstrong is the perfect choice for many family households.
Armstrong speeds range from 25 Mbps to 1 Gbps, which means if you have a household with several connected devices, there’s a suitable plan for you.
Though MCTV’s Internet plans may offer speeds that don’t match up with some of the larger providers, this provider’s reliability and affordability are second to none.
With speeds ranging from 50-200 Mbps, MCTV is a solid option for households that have virtual learners.
Hargray is a cable Internet provider offering service in 16 zip codes, with all of its coverage focused in South Carolina and Georgia.
Internet service from Hargray would be great for remote learning as its plans range from 50 Mbps all the way up to 1 Gbps.
Are There Any Free Internet Options for Families?
For low-income households that require free or low-cost Internet, there’s a government-funded initiative called the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) that offers free or discounted Internet access to eligible households.
Enrollment in the program is open to all households that meet certain qualifications - i.e. if you are part of free or reduced lunch programs. If eligible, it can be a great way for low-income families to get a strong connection with a lower Internet bill.
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