Survey: Schools need faster broadband speeds

Fast and reliable broadband access is critical for schools.

More than half of school and library respondents in a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) e-Rate survey say they provide some form of wireless internet access for school employees and students, but almost 80 percent of those same respondents said their broadband connections are inadequate.

Fifty-five percent of those who said their broadband connections are inadequate said that slow connection speed was the deciding factor in that decision.

Ten percent of survey respondents have broadband speeds of 100 Mbps or faster, and more than half (55 percent) have broadband speeds greater than 3 Mbps. More than half of school districts surveyed (60 percent) use a fiber optic connection, and 66 percent of respondents offer wireless internet access for staff, students, or library patrons.…Read More

New report highlights barriers to online learning

Broadband access is crucial to success in online learning programs, a new report says.

Students must have reliable broadband access if they are to take advantage of 21st-century online education programs that can increase their access to educational opportunities, according to a new report from the U.S. Distance Learning Association (USDLA).

The report, Enabled by Broadband, Education Enters a New Frontier, highlights success and growth in online education programs across the country. It also outlines the need for increased broadband access and suggests policy measures to ensure that barriers to continued growth in online learning are removed.

“Online learning … is keeping students engaged and in school, especially at-risk youth who are able to overcome educational obstacles because of the flexible and exciting nature of distance learning,” said John G. Flores, USDLA’s executive director. “Students and lifelong learners are reaching their goals because of broadband technology applications.”…Read More

Troubling gaps still exist in broadband use

A survey last year found that 35 percent of Americans do not use broadband at home.

The U.S. still faces a significant gap in residential broadband use that breaks down along incomes, education levels, and other socio-economic factors, even as subscriptions among American households overall grew sevenfold between 2001 and 2009.

What’s more, even when controlling for key socio-economic characteristics, the U.S. continues to confront a racial gap in residential broadband use, with non-Hispanic white Americans and Asian-Americans more likely to go online using a high-speed connection than African-Americans and Hispanics.

Those are some of the key conclusions of a new analysis of Census data being released Nov. 8 by the Commerce Department. It found that the percentage of households that connect to the internet using broadband grew to 63.5 percent in 2009 from 9.2 percent in 2001, reflecting increases across nearly all demographics.…Read More

Your guide to securing 2011 e-Rate dollars

Following valuable tips could lead to big e-Rate payoffs.
Following valuable tips could lead to big e-Rate payoffs.

Since its inception in 1997, the federal e-Rate has disbursed more than $19 billion in discounts to help schools and libraries purchase telecommunications services and internet access.

Over the years, the e-Rate has undergone minor tweaks to prevent waste and bring more value to applicants. This year, however, marks the biggest set of changes in more than a decade. To make sure you’re getting the most out of the program, read on.

What you should know about the 2011 e-Rate program…Read More

What you should know about the 2011 e-Rate program

e-Rate applicants should pay equal care to program changes as well as what has remained the same.
e-Rate applicants should pay equal care to program changes as well as what has remained the same.

It’s in with the new … and in with the old as well: To fully leverage 2011 e-Rate funding in boosting broadband access, it’s important to understand the latest changes to the program (and there are many)—but don’t overlook the things that didn’t change, too.

The more things change…

The regulatory adoptions and clarifications highlighted in the Federal Communications Commission’s Sixth Report and Order align with the agency’s desire to streamline the application process, further protect against waste, fraud, and abuse, and codify the rule regarding gifting—as well as articulate the community usage of e-Rate funded resources.…Read More

Panelists: Digital tools expand learning opportunities

Access to digital learning opportunities is critical for U.S. students' success, panelists said.
Access to digital learning opportunities is critical for U.S. students' success, panelists said.

The nation’s director of education technology called on schools to replace textbooks with mobile learning devices, and the head of the Federal Communications Commission said his agency would be voting this week on whether to lift some restrictions on the use of federal e-Rate funds to help deliver broadband access to more students, during a Sept. 21 panel discussion about the implications of digital-age learning.

Investments in broadband access and mobile learning devices are essential to helping students learn the skills they’ll need to compete on a global scale, said panelists during “Back to School: Learning and Growing in a Digital Age,” hosted by Common Sense Media, the Children’s Partnership, PBS Kids, and the University of Southern California’s Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.

“In some ways, this country is in a serious crisis when it comes to education and the underinvestment in our kids over the last 30 years,” said Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, during his opening remarks.…Read More

Rural telecom gets a boost

A new telecommunications company hopes to bring cell phones and wireless internet to tribal reservations.
A new telecommunications company hopes to bring cell phones and wireless internet to tribal reservations.

A telecommunications company created by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has tribal officials hopeful that it will enhance education on the reservation and give the local economy a boost.

Standing Rock Telecommunications (SRT) is the first tribal-owned telecommunications company in the nation that offers cellular phone and wireless broadband service.

Beginning with an $11 million investment in 2007, it has put up 18 towers within the reservation that straddles the North Dakota and South Dakota border and secured locations for two branch stores and a headquarters.…Read More

Broadband grants mean millions more for higher education

Federal funding will provide more broadband access to students across the nation.
Federal funding will provide more broadband access to students across the nation.

Colleges and universities will be among the anchor institutions in an ultra high-speed nationwide internet network after President Obama earlier this month announced more than $760 million in grants designed to expand broadband web access.

The Departments of Commerce and Agriculture will dole out the federal broadband funding, which will go to 66 recipients, including municipalities, web service providers, libraries, and colleges, according to the White House.

Federal officials estimate that the funds will create 5,000 jobs in the nation’s slumping economy.…Read More

Top 10 ed-tech stories of 2009: No. 3

Broadband access offers more educational opportunities.
Broadband access offers more educational opportunities.

The economic stimulus package approved by Congress in February included $7.2 billion to help bring broadband internet access to more citizens. It also required the Federal Communications Commission to create a national broadband plan–an undertaking with important implications for schools.

The stimulus authorized the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to implement the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP), which is a $4.7 billion, one-time competitive matching grants program. The funds are intended to expand broadband services to underserved areas, improve broadband access for public safety agencies, stimulate the economy, and create jobs. NTIA is implementing the program along side the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Services, which received $2.5 billion for broadband loans, loan guarantees, and grants.

The funding came on the heels of a report from the Benton Foundation calling for robust, affordable, and universal broadband access to the internet, because, according to what the foundation calls “persuasive research,” universal and affordable broadband is “the key to our nation’s citizens reaching for–and achieving–the American Dream.”…Read More