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Broadband pilots could serve as models for other states

Broadband pilots could serve as models for other states

To take an inventory of the current state of internet access in Arkansas and Virginia classrooms, EducationSuperHighway is analyzing eRate requests for each of these states’ schools, among other data.

With its new eRate rules announced last month, the Federal Communications Commission has called for more transparency in eRate data. School leaders and others will be able to review applicants’ Item 21 funding requests online starting next year, which will make data collection easier, Marwell said.

The process is further along in Arkansas, which already collected this information at the state level—and looking at the Arkansas data has been eye-opening.

“Our common perception is that Arkansas is behind the curve,” Marwell said, “but that’s wrong.” More than half of Arkansas districts already have enough bandwidth to meet the president’s ConnectED goal.

Yet, the state’s contract supplying internet access to every school is “horribly inefficient,” Marwell added. Arkansas spends up to $15 million a year delivering bandwidth to every school through copper circuits.

See also:

A $5 billion bounty: How to use eRate support for Wi-Fi

New eRate rules invite a new approach: Managed Wi-Fi

eRate changes prompt new voice options for schools

 

EducationSuperHighway’s analysis found the state was spending half its investment to achieve only 5 percent of its total bandwidth to students. The analysis revealed a key opportunity to deliver broadband to every Arkansas school through fiber-optic connections instead, Marwell said.

In Virginia, the data-collection phase is just getting under way. Marwell said officials hope to have the first set of information back this fall.

EducationSuperHighway is hoping to work with other states as well, beginning next spring. “We want to see involvement from the top” before partnering with other states, Marwell said, referring to support from state governors.

Follow Special Projects Editor Dennis Pierce via Twitter: @eSN_Dennis.

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Comment:

  1. merdrago

    November 14, 2014 at 10:18 pm

    Good article, however, our District will have 10 GB to every school by 2015. Having the infrastructure to handle the 10 GB capacity was the challenge. We are currently upgrading our entire Middle / High School infrastructure with Meraki Switches/WAP’s and are about 75% completed. I applaud other schools following suit in gaining Broadband and hope we can get it to all rural areas so that all students can have chance to utilize the knowledge that awaits them.