News

New toolkit to help schools increase fiber connections, affordably

By Laura Devaney, Director of News, @eSN_Laura
April 18th, 2016

dark fiber

A CoSN resource aims to help school tech leaders navigate new E-rate rules allowing for the use of dark fiber

District technology leaders looking for guidance around how to leverage the expanded fiber connectivity opportunities in the E-rate program might find help in the form of a new toolkit from CoSN and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Sixty-eight percent of district technology officers in a recent CoSN survey said their school systems don’t have the bandwidth to meet connectivity needs, but the toolkit is an attempt to give those technology leaders guidance as they try and meet ever-increasing bandwidth demands.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2014 took major steps to update the E-rate program, including increasing its annual funding to $3.9 billion, up from $2.4 billion. In 2016, E-rate applicants can start applying for discounts for dark fiber and self-provisioned fiber, which, ed-tech stakeholders say, gives schools more flexibility as they try to meet connectivity demands.

“Fiber is generally accepted to be the only communications medium that can meet the bandwidth needs for all but the smallest school systems, but how schools acquire fiber connectivity in the most cost-effective manner will depend on the unique circumstances of each district,” the authors write.

Next page: The toolkit