ConnectED initiative promises schools +100Mbps Internet in 5 years

By on June 7, 2013, 11:45 AM

The Obama administration yesterday unveiled plans (pdf) to vastly improve broadband delivered to K-12 students. The initiative aims to roll out 100Mbps Internet (up to 1Gbps where possible) to public schools within the next five years and all supposedly without the need for Congressional approval.

Alongside the delivery of faster Internet, ConnectED promises to train educators on how to incorporate it (and other technologies) into their classroom. The White House believes its plan will also help public schools save money by facilitating "educational devices" -- suggesting the use of tablets and e-readers instead of traditional text books.

"We are living in a digital age, and to help our students get ahead, we must make sure they have access to cutting-edge technology," said President Obama. "So today, I’m issuing a new challenge for America – one that families, businesses, school districts and the federal government can rally around together – to connect virtually every student in America’s classrooms to high-speed broadband internet within five years, and equip them with the tools to make the most of it."

Rural areas often lag behind the most in terms of connectivity, according to the White House. The administration claims that fewer than 20 percent of educators believe their school's Internet connectivity is able to meet their needs.

Funding for ConnectED appears to be coming from the Universal Service Fund, a pool of cash primarily designated to broaden and improve communications access. The USF is paid for by taxes levied on telecommunication companies, but that cost is often directly passed onto consumers in the form of a USF fee or charge. The White House admitted on Wednesday that its plan could bump USF fees on phone bills up another 40 cents per month, or about 5 dollars per year.

The FCC has been asked to leverage its existing E-Rate program for schools -- the initiative responsible for getting Internet into the classrooms originally -- to help roll out ConnectED over the next five years. 




User Comments: 8

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psycros psycros said:

Tablets have no place in K-12. Kids break them just because they can. And since educators think the only tablets are iPads they end up spending twice what they should. Their also much harder to type on, which slows down the entire class. Tablets are only useful in the lecture hall. Laptops make far more sense in every other situation.

MilwaukeeMike said:

Of all the issues facing public education in this country, I wouldn't have guessed 'slow internet' would have made the list. Although I guess if you want to use the Universal Service Fund, then this is one way to get money into education.

I'm not sure we want to be replacing text books with tablets though. There are plenty of public schools in this country that don't allow text books to be taken home because they end up damaged.

AnonymousSurfer AnonymousSurfer said:

@psycros the article wasn't about iPads. They aren't buying the kids iPads they are allowing for larger bandwith. Schools already supply laptops and computers which can be just as easy to break as iPads but that's besides the point...

I go to a school of 1,200+ students, fairly decent size. Our total bandwith is 25Mbps. They have to ban websites that allow us to watch videos because if 9 students decide they want to watch 720p videos, they entire schools internet comes to a hault. It's terrible. We need this 100Mbps now, not in 5 years. In 5 years regular homes will have 1 Gbps while schools will still be stuck at 100Mbps...

Guest said:

Yep the article isn't about ipads but you got to wonder how much apple payed to have it in the picture. Also wonder how much of that school bandwidth is going to be used to download movies from you tube or to watch stupid clips of kids falling emulating Jack A s s.

Timonius Timonius said:

Further blurring the line of entertainment (availability of) and education (is it really?).

Just give us bread and circuses right?

tipstir tipstir, TS Ambassador, said:

We have this already here at my place has 105 down I get 130-132mbp down and 20-21mbps and it doesn't come cheap either. It was 50 down and 10 up but my ISP double my speed and I also tweaked it so now I get more..

Guest said:

Psychos, you sound as if you know little about iPads, schools, or children. Last fall, when I was teaching a photography class to Second Graders, I was sorry the school had bought new iMacs rather than iPads. My own daughter is 29 now and I've seen, over & over, since she was in First grade, that what was being promised about computers in the classroom was not happening.

With the advent of the iPad that has changed. The iPad is so much more user friendly & fitted to the skills of even young children. Moreover, there are already a huge number of apps & interactive e books that make wonderful use of this technology. There are great apps for kids with special needs too.

As for durability and costs, iPads have it over desktops. They are better value for the money; many excellent apps are free; it is, if anything, easier for a teacher to keep iPads from getting damaged than it is to protect a desktop or notebook computer. Actually, iPads are quite sturdy; I'm typing on one with some dents from adults dropping it. Plus there are some very protective, reasonably priced cases available. Also, if you need to put the kids on line or have them print, with iPads they can do that at their desks via wifi instead of having to crowd around what are typically a few computer scrunched into one corner of the classroom.

It's easier several children to work together on an iPad, as they can all get around it at once; and iPads require less in the way of coordination skills than computers -- or handwriting for that matter. Another benefit is that a teacher can use a classroom smart board with an iPad (easier to walk around with than a notebook computer) as well as have the kids putting things on the board with their iPads.

In short, I think that if you ask around, you'd find that a LOT of teachers would love to get iPads for their classrooms.

Guest said:

I can see why you think Apple did some product placement here. However, if anything, the circumstances around the President's initiative suggest that it will slow schools' transition from computers to tablets.

The administration's Race To The Top initiative has three components: the Common Core standards; high stakes testing on computers; and collection of school system records into a large national database. In order to get funding under RTTT and waivers from he requirements of No Child Left Behind, states had to agree to go with all three of the components. As of now, 45 states and DC have done so.

Of course, in order to carry out on line testing of all students, most school systems need to upgrade their net connections as well as get more computers. ( Even VA Fairfax County, one of the richest county's in the country, couldn't manage to do all its testing online this spring.) The plan is that schools throughout the country will be doing their testing online by the end of the 2013-14 school year. So this is one very big reason for the President to focus on the Digital Divide now.

Getting all schools -- particularly those in rural areas and on Indian reservations -- properly wired and on line isa great idea and good for all. But it is unfortunate that high stakes testing is what is spurring on government action to solve a problem we've been hearing about for ten to fifteen years.

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