Survey: Schools need faster broadband speeds

Harrington pointed to survey results indicating that more than half of respondents plan to implement digital textbooks in the near future and said some schools may direct textbook money, freed up in a move to digital textbooks, to augment broadband access.

“It’s not to say that digital text is the answer to everything, [but] we need to maintain basics and find ways to make sure there’s access to these tools and services,” Harrington said.

Funding remains a dominant concern, with 39 percent of respondents reporting that cost of service is a barrier when it comes to meeting internet needs, and 27 percent reported that cost of installation is a barrier.

Also in the survey, school and library respondents ranked the three technology and infrastructure areas in which their institutions could most benefit from improvement over the next two years.

Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed said computers and desktop equipment needed the most immediate improvement, and 42 percent chose server hardware, operating systems, and storage solutions. Professional development and support remains a large need, with 38 percent of respondents saying their staff needs more training and support. Twenty-eight percent said local area network equipment needs updating.

Schools use eMail applications the most, with 98 percent reporting regular use or access, and 69 percent of schools surveyed consider it the most essential tool.

Libraries responding to the survey indicated that online reference materials are the most used application (86 percent) and the most essential (62 percent).

The Obama administration’s efforts to expand broadband access in schools and communities “is dead on,” Harrington said. “We have to push that deeper into our communities. I think you’ll see districts becoming more intelligent and sophisticated in…technology and services that help stretch bandwidth further.”

The report examines the current state of the federal $2.25 billion-a-year e-Rate program, specifically broadband use among schools and libraries. It was conducted by Harris Interactive from February 2010 to April 2010. The Universal Service Administrative Company, the agency that administers the e-Rate, gave Harris Interactive a list of all 22,819 e-Rate recipients from the 2008 funding year. Harris interactive surveyed 5,000 of those recipients, and received complete surveys from 1,060 recipients.

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