Tech Association Calls for Greater Broadband Access for Schools

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While most schools in the United States (in fact, 98 percent) have basic Internet access, for many that access is cripplingly slow--too slow to accommodate technology-driven educational initiatives--according to a new report from the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA). The group is recommending certain baseline figures for adequate bandwidth for schools and proposing policy changes to effect upgrades over the next five to seven years.

SETDA, an education technology advocacy group based in Maryland, released its report, High-Speed Broadband Access for All Kids: Breaking Through the Barriers, to call attention to the "critical" issue of broadband access in schools and to get stakeholders prepared to achieve growth in the quality of broadband that schools need in order to take technology-based learning to the next level.

According to SETDA Executive Director Mary Ann Wolf, "Planning and implementing for this growth is critical for our education system. We now have data that shows how technology makes a significant impact on student achievement in all subject areas and grades--not to mention providing unprecedented opportunities for on-going and sustainable professional development that improves teacher practice within the classroom. High speed broadband is essential to making change happen."

SETDA has set out a two-stage growth goal for schools. Within the next two to three years, it recommends 10 Mbps per 1,000 students for an external Internet connection and 100 Mbps per 1,000 students for district WAN bandwidth. In five to seven years, those figures should increase tenfold: 100 Mbps for an external Internet connection and 1,000 Mbps for the district WAN per 1,000 students.

The organization has also developed several recommendations for achieving these goals in the areas of implementation, policy, funding, and E-Rate. Some of these include:

  • Collaborating with state and local government, community, and private sector in developing a planning effort;
  • Leveraging E-Rate "and other federal, state, and local funding sources";
  • Partnering with other organizations to create economies of scale;
  • Advocating an increase in funding for the universal service program; and
  • Streamlining the E-Rate application and approval process.

The report highlights several areas in which broadband is of critical importance, including online assessments, distance learning, technology-supported special education programs, various Web 2.0-fueled educational initiatives, and teacher professional development programs, which often involve bandwidth-hungry technologies like virtual meeting rooms, videoconferencing, and streaming media.

"In order to provide students with an interactive learning environment necessary to build the high level skills essential to compete in the global economy, we need to ensure that our children have access to high-speed broadband both at school and at home--with access that is affordable for all households," the report stated.

The report also includes several mini-case studies highlighting successful efforts at increasing bandwidth at the school, district, and state levels.

The complete report, with resources, links, detailed tips, and examples of best practices, can be found in PDF format here. Information aout the report can be found on SETDA's site here.

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About the author: David Nagel is the executive editor for 1105 Media's online education technology publications, including THE Journal and Campus Technology. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com.

Proposals for articles and tips for news stories, as well as questions and comments about this publication, should be submitted to David Nagel, executive editor, at dnagel@1105media.com.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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