bridging technology scoop! the (audacious) educationsuperhighway

SCOOP! THE (AUDACIOUS) EDUCATIONSUPERHIGHWAY: No matter how great your digital tools, there's one thing that every school needs to make it work: great bandwidth. Not just "some" bandwidth--but real juice. Reports suggest that connections exist but too often connectivity is simply not reliable enough for teachers to count on it being available. (Imagine if teachers weren't sure that the lights would go on. More classes would likely happen outside!) Now serial entrepreneur, Evan Marwell, hopes to solve this problem. "My end goal is that every school has 100 Megabits per second," he declares. And yes, he's counting all 100,000 or so public schools in the U.S.

To take on this audacious goal, Marwell is creating a 501c3 called EducationSuperhighway and a three-step plan:

1. Build a national database of what networking infrastructure schools really have.

2. Create "templates" so that schools have detailed and clever instructions of how to get themselves connected to big pipes that might already be nearby. (Marwell talks about how some schools are starting to use point-to-point wireless connections to leap onto broadband networks that are just slightly off school premises). Other templates will show schools how to ensure that they distribute that bandwidth effectively throughout the schools, as too often connectivity shrinks at the campus threshold.

3. Build partnerships to advocate getting the funds that already exist for school networking better deployed to support 100 Mbps connectivity. Marwell figures there's enough money sloshing through the E-rate program and state and local technology infrastructure program to support such a superhighway. He's encouraged by Ireland's 100 Mb school program, which is coming out to about $20k per school.

It's very early days. Marwell's cautious about what he'll have to raise to make this program come together. Building a roadmap comes first but he says he wants to go the full distance and get the bandwidth to--and throughout--schools.

Marwell says his past companies, which include a telecom services company (INFONXX now KGB), a software company that hit the wall around 9-11, and a hedge fund (Criterion Capital Management) have given him insight into what it takes to tackle big hairy but significant projects.

He's signing up other Silicon Valley big thinkers for support, starting with Jon Kaplan (Flip & the Melt) and Philip Alvelda (MobiTV). His bottom line: "None of this edtech stuff will work without great connectivity." We don't disagree with that. Got some thoughts for him? Ping him at evan@educationsuperhighway.org.

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