In a headline that could translate to many schools across the country, the Wall Street Journal recently noted that “Slow Internet Vexes Schools.”
According to EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit that tests school broadband speeds and works to upgrade internet access, an estimated 72 percent of public schools have connections that are too slow for digital learning.
The Obama Administration also revealed that the average school has about the same internet speed as the average American home, while serving 200 times as many users.
“Just as people are getting excited about the power of what the internet offers to students and teachers, they are running into the buzz saw of infrastructure,” said Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway for the Wall Street Journal.
It’s a fact that Harrington emphasized as well, saying that while much of the public thinks that it’s as simple “getting the internet” it has much more to do with in-school (internal) infrastructure.
And according to Harrington, it’s not because schools are bad at planning, it’s because federal funding doesn’t yet support the infrastructure schools need for mobile learning and online assessments as part of the Common Core.
“Think of broadband as a highway,” explained Harrington. “The eRate can get districts the highway. What the eRate can’t get is the on-ramp to the highway—that’s the internal infrastructure. Without the on-ramp, the highway is pretty much useless.”
“It’s like having a having a national information superhighway that runs into a brick wall when it reaches the school building,” said John Windhausen, director of the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB).
And though this may seem like a massive oversight, the eRate isn’t dumb–it just doesn’t have enough funds.
“Federal funding is prioritized, so Priority 1 means getting that highway to the district and Priority 2 means the on-ramp. Because there are so many schools in need at the moment, there’s no funding left for Priority 2,” Harrington said.
(Next page: State and local help)