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SETDA Appraises Broadband Speed Testing Tools

A national organization of state education technology directors has published the results of a comparison of tools that schools can use to assess their broadband capabilities in preparation for coming online Common Core assessments and the use of other digital resources. The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) hired Netcraft, an Internet services company, to do the analysis of three free services:

The results are shared in a publicly available report, "Netcraft Analysis: Online Speed Testing Tools."

SETDA commissioned the Netcraft study to "highlight" technical differences in the way broadband speed tests work. The idea is to run each service from the school network and then analyze the findings to determine how suitable the bandwidth is to support various Internet uses.

The Smarter Balanced test is specifically structured to address readiness for online assessments. The test, which only runs on Firefox, Safari, and Google Chrome browsers, requests input on which test--mathematics or English language arts--is being considered and how many students will be tested at one time. The results share download and upload speeds and also offer an assessment about whether the throughput is sufficient or not to support that many simultaneous test-takers.

The School Speed Test provides results of broadband testing of a single computer and then in a frequently-asked questions page provides an extrapolation for how viable those results are for running various types of Internet applications, such as voice-over-IP and video curriculum.

SpeedTest reports the maximum connection speed of the tested computer without evaluation for a school environment specifically.

The 2012 SETDA study, The Broadband Imperative, recommends that all schools pursue a baseline of Internet connectivity equal to 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and staff by 2014; by 2017, that capacity should be increased to one gigabit per second per 1,000 students and staff.

"Access to robust and affordable broadband for education--in and out of school--is vital to preparing today's students for college and careers," said Douglas Levin, SETDA executive director. "Schools must regularly evaluate the quality of their Internet connectivity to ensure it meets the current and future needs of students and educators. School broadband speed tests play an integral role in this process."

Full Disclosure: Reporter Dian Schaffhauser is currently developing a report with SETDA on the topic of data interoperability.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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