Schools Still Lacking Bandwidth

column | School Infrastructure

Schools Still Lacking Bandwidth

Jun 18, 2013

STILL LACKING BANDWIDTH AFTER ALL THESE YEARS: Yes, President Obama is pledging to get high-speed bandwidth to schools within five years. But next year still looks rather bleak: EducationSuperhighway CEO, Evan Marwell, told EdSurge that when the FCC releases its "e-rate" money to support networking in schools in July, only a tiny fraction will support networking inside of schools. That's because for the first time ever, schools requested so much support to simply get more bandwidth to their front door (so-called "priority one" requests) that the FCC could spend its entire budget fulfilling those requests. "There will be a little bit of money from rollover funds," Marwell says. "But for the first time ever, the FCC could have spent every dollar of erate on connectivity to the schools."

Marwell's group has collected data on the connectivity in about 15% of US K-12 schools; he estimates that close to 80% lack the bandwidth to support rich media. A full 70% lack the bandwidth to support media-rich assessments such as the Common Core assessments devised by PARC or Smarter Balanced.

Marwell believes a big part of the problem is the enormous chasm between what difference schools pay for bandwidth. "The median school in the e-rate program is paying about $40 per MB," Marwell says. A school that's negotiated a better contract may pay only $5 to $10 per MB. A district that owns its own fiber pays 25 cents per MB, Marwell figures.

And for entrepreneurs who work with schools, helping the educators figure out how to get the bandwidth they need to run applications may be part of the job description.

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