With regard to the story, “FCC: Rural Alaskan residents can hook into internet through schools” (February), there are some misunderstandings being perpetuated here.
This story missed several key points, largely relating to the implications of the schools’ use of the network after the school day is over for students. Almost without fail, teachers are at school till eight or nine or 10 p.m., working on lesson prep, grades, or materials development.
The school likely will not have any part in the provision of internet access, but rather the ruling should result in some local entity stepping up to become the internet provider and using the unused satellite bandwidth that provides the schools’ internet connection. The school should not have any part in selecting the entity to become the service provider, and the equipment should not have anything to do with the school buildings.
The ruling does not provide free internet access to rural residents, but merely says that the existing network facilities can be used by some entity, chosen in a neutral manner, to provide dial-up internet access in rural communities where none currently exists.
What this means is that some Joe schmoe can talk to the district and let [officials] know they are interested in providing the hookup for the community. (The school has enough on its hands in the community to take on the role of help desk for an internet provider business in its off-hours). So the state, at some point, will take all the interested parties for each village and select the provider, if more than one exists, to provide help desk support, install assistance, modems, router, and phone lines, all at some “reasonable cost,” probably not to exceed $20 per month. It’s a marginal profit center for someone who doesn’t need to pay for the incoming pipe, which he can then resell.
There are also questions about when the network is not being used for educational purposes. What about quarter end time when grades are due, and the districts with online student-records systems are using the internet to send final grades and schedule updates? The first time these educational uses come to a halt because your neighbor is downloading the latest cutesy pictures or engaging in live chat with the World Wrestling Federation contenders, the situation will get interesting really fast.
What is being preached, however, is that “this is free internet for rural Alaska,” and “it’s about time those wasteful schools started sharing their connections with the rest of the community.”
There are other issues regarding the schools’ place within the communities, but those are perhaps the fodder for other stories. A little more information provided on this one, however, will show that the issue needs some clarification.