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The School Speed Test: Where do you measure up?

Posted on Sep 25, 2012

The non-profit organization, EducationSuperHighway (ESH) noted that 99% of the nation’s K-12 schools are hooked up to the internet, but 80% of these connections don’t meet the U.S. Department of Education’s recommended capacity of 100Mbps per 1,000 students. What schools actually have, they provide, are connections crawling along at 5-20Mbps.

ESH reports that this isn’t a funding or technology problem. The FCC’s E-Rate program provides $2-3 billion per year to help schools upgrade their broadband infrastructure. So if it’s not funding, what is it?

Think of it like someone who spends more money fixing up the outside of their car than the inside. They have the loud exhaust, the flashy rims, the fat racing tires, but not a penny goes toward the little rusting four-cylinder underneath their hood scoop. They might look fast, but what good is that? Even if a school spends all their money making sure they have the coolest, shiniest, most advanced bells and whistles – iPads for every student or a new-computer smell down every hallway – they’re only as good as their connection.

Not all schools are shooting for the flashiest gear; some just aren’t getting the intended bang for their buck. The ESH notes, “…we have a digital divide in our schools due to a lack of information about where to direct E-Rate funding, fragmented purchasing by 14,000 school districts, a lack of expertise in our schools about how to deploy and manage 100MB+ infrastructure and a paucity of high speed broadband in school neighborhoods.”

They explain that this mismanagement of funds has resulted in schools having, “the same amount of Internet access as the typical home – with 100 times more users. Capacity, not access, is what prevents our schools from using digital learning to improve student outcomes and 80% of our schools don’t have enough.”

Enter the ESH’s School Speed Test. The test, “…hopes to measure the internet capabilities of every K-12 school and identify those that are lagging behind.” Here’s what they’re doing and why your school should take the test:

  • We are building a national database of the broadband infrastructure in every K-12 school and designing best practices based roadmaps to 100MB+ for each school.
  • We are creating an Education Geek Squad to help schools implement 100MB+ broadband infrastructure and aggregate purchasing.
  • We are developing a low cost network assessment appliance that will enable schools to easily monitor and manage their networks.
  • We are supporting efforts to maximize the impact of the E-Rate program and encourage telecommunications carriers to accelerate the deployment of high speed broadband in school neighborhoods.

 Kyle Vineyard is a senior majoring in English at the University of Kansas. He has a passion for the written word and a soft spot for rural America.

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