Low ‘net capacity stymies students

Colorado lags far behind the national average in terms of high-speed internet connectivity at its schools. A solution is in the works, but it hinges on a nonprofit consortium landing $178.5 million in competitive federal stimulus grants to increase broadband speeds at every K-12 school district in the state, reports the Denver Post. Joan Stemo’s classroom at Weld Central High School, a $21 million facility that opened just four years ago, is lined with 30 computers, each equipped with the latest technology. Yet her students don’t have the internet capability to download iTunes songs for their scrapbook-DVD projects. "If they all try to log on at one time, it’s a disaster," Stemo said. Weld Central’s school district has access to 7.5 megabits per second of bandwidth for roughly 2,100 students. That’s a rate of about 3.5 kilobits per second per student, which is the average for schools in Colorado, according to a survey by the Centennial Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in Longmont. The national average is 6.4 Kbps per student. To sustain a "ubiquitous computing environment," schools will need to reach a rate of 40 Kbps per student, according to the 2008 America’s Digital Schools study. Schools in rural Colorado are struggling to keep pace, because it’s typically not cost-effective for internet providers to build out services in the area. But location is only part of the problem. Denise Atkinson-Shorey, a Centennial BOCES official who led the broadband grant application on behalf of the Colorado Community Anchor Broadband Consortium, said Colorado schools are behind the nation in broadband adoption because they haven’t worked together to buy bandwidth in bulk. It’s a path states such as Utah and Nebraska have taken, which has helped them drive down costs and increase capacity, Atkinson-Shorey said…

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