Broadband Makes Successful Students

Posted: August 24, 2020

Michigan State University Study Highlights the Importance of High-Speed Broadband

As students begin the new school year, many connect to their classmates, teachers, and textbooks online. We know access to a reliable, high-speed connection is necessary while learning remotely, but it is also a vital component for students’ success in a classroom setting.

A recent study conducted by Michigan State University found that middle and high school students who did not have access to broadband or who relied on their cellphones for internet access have fewer digital skills, perform worse on standardized testing, are less likely to attend college and have a lower interest in careers in science, technology, engineering, and math fields.

Levoy Knowles, executive director of the Tennessee Broadband Association, says he is not surprised by the findings.

“This confirms what we have been saying all along,” Knowles says. “The importance of a reliable broadband connection cannot be overstated, but for students, it is absolutely vital and can be the difference between success and failure.”

Grade Point Average

The study acknowledges that demographic factors can affect differences in GPA. For example, students whose parents have more years of formal education tend to receive higher grades. Low-income, minority students and those from single-parent households tend to receive lower grades. However, regardless of these factors, students with fast home internet access routinely receive better grades than those without broadband.

The study averaged grade point averages (GPAs) for students with fast internet, no internet, and those that only access the internet via a cellphone data connection.

  • Fast internet access — 3.18 GPA
  • No access — 2.81 GPA
  • Cellphone access only — 2.75 GPA


Access to high-speed internet directly impacts whether a student has a good or bad educational experience and can, therefore, determine whether they attend college following high school.

The study found that:

  • 47% of students with no internet access plan to attend college after high school
  • 60% of students with slow internet plan to attend college
  • 65% of students with fast internet plan to attend college

Standardized Testing

Regardless of demographics, the study found that those with lower digital skills generally perform worse on standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT than students with a higher level of digital skills.

According to a review of test scores, students with only moderately below average digital skills performed:

  • 7 percentile points lower on total ACT/SAT score
  • 5 percentile points lower in math
  • 8 percentile points lower in evidence-based reading and writing

The Michigan State study isn’t the only evidence that students need access to high-speed broadband. A number of other studies examining similar data support Michigan State’s findings. 

“Broadband access has never been more important than it is right now for a student’s success,” Knowles says. “That is why our members are working hard to bridge the rural gap and make sure all the students in Tennessee have access to the tools they need to succeed.”

Learn more about the Michigan State study.