FCC’s plan to reclassify internet has big K-12 impact

FCC commissioner seeks to protect the open internet, opening new broadband access opportunities for K-12

fcc-internetFCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is proposing clear, sustainable, enforceable rules to preserve and protect the open Internet as a place for innovation and free expression. According to an FCC Fact Sheet the common-sense proposal would replace, strengthen, and supplement FCC rules struck down by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit more than one year ago.

“An open Internet allows consumers to access the legal content and applications that they choose online, without interference from their broadband network provider,” the fact sheet states. “It fosters innovation and competition by ensuring that new products and services developed by entrepreneurs aren’t blocked or throttled by Internet service providers putting their own profits above the public interest. An open Internet allows free expression to blossom without fear of an Internet provider acting as a gatekeeper. And it gives innovators predictable rules of the road to deliver new products and services online.”

Evan Marwell, CEO of San Francisco-based EducationSuperHighway, says Chairman Wheeler’s proposals to protect the open internet include one key provision that will be very helpful to any school district or library that is working to bring fiber to their buildings. That is, by “ensuring fair access to poles and conduits under section 224,” the proposed rules will make it much simpler and more cost effective for school districts to obtain the rights of way they will need for fiber construction.…Read More

Are digital textbooks worth it?

Early digital textbook adopters share their pros and cons

discovery-textbookIt has been nearly three years since the FCC and Education Secretary Arne Duncan rolled out the Digital Textbook Playbook and challenged schools to go digital within five years. It’s safe to say schools are not there yet. While going digital looks certain, arrival in two years looks doubtful.

The potential benefits for schools transitioning to digital curriculum—specifically, replacing their print textbooks with digital ones—remain compelling. As schools move to the Common Core, and Pluto shifts in and out of planetary status, information can be updated on the fly. Interactive quizzes, comments, and discussions live within the text itself. The addition of video, audio and interactivity allows for multi-modal, personalized, accessible and interactive learning; it’s lightweight for backpacks; and there are cost savings down the road from not printing.

Of course, widespread adoption relies on a robust infrastructure. Wireless bandwidth must be able to handle the load, and filtering must let advanced material through. Students need reliable devices at school and home, and the content needs to be designed for whatever platform they might have. Importantly, teachers need time to learn a new way of running a classroom.…Read More

Top ed-tech stories to watch: eRate gets a facelift

No. 2 on our list of key ed-tech trends for the new school year is the dramatic overhaul of the eRate, the nation’s school wiring program

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The FCC’s new rules aim to transform the eRate from a telecommunications program into a broadband program that supports the delivery of high-speed internet service within schools.

[Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of stories examining five key ed-tech developments to watch for the 2014-15 school year. Our countdown continues tomorrow with No. 1.]

Last month, the Federal Communications Commission announced the most significant changes to the eRate, the $2.4 billion-a-year federal school connectivity program, in the program’s 17-year history.

The eRate offers discounts ranging from 20 percent to 90 percent of the cost of telecommunications services, internet access, and “internal connections” (such as routers, switches, and Wi-Fi equipment) to eligible schools and libraries.…Read More

7 strong facts that support school broadband

Broadband access is more important than ever, and the public agrees

broadband-internetU.S. public opinion isn’t too positive when it comes to technology in the nation’s schools.

Feb. 4 poll results from the bipartisan Leading Education by Advancing Digital (LEAD) Commission reveal that voters–both parents and nonparents–gave a “C” grade to the state of technology in U.S. schools.

“Parents and nonparents prove to be pretty intensely concerned about where classroom technology is in America today,” said Joel Benenson, president of the Benenson Strategy Group, which led the survey.…Read More

BREAKING NEWS: 3 immediate ways the eRate is improving for schools

FCC chairman’s speech highlights eRate restructuring plans to get money to schools NOW

e-rate-fcc-broadband-schoolIn what could be one of the most heartening examples of putting money where a mouth is, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler just announced that the eRate will change in three significant ways to put money into the hands of schools immediately in order to provide internet access and close the digital divide.

“A little known fact about today’s eRate program is that only about half of the program’s funds go for broadband connectivity,” explained Wheeler. “Well less than half goes for the kind of 100 mbps and higher speeds necessary for today’s learning environment. In a 2013 National School Speed Test 72 percent of schools–that is nearly 40 million students didn’t have the access speeds they needed.”

Wheeler’s speech, part of National Digital Learning Day hosted at the Library of Congress, comes a day after President Obama announced over $750 million in private and public investment for high-speed internet in schools. (Read: “What to do with millions of dollars for education technology.”)…Read More

FCC moves to double broadband funds

Existing funds would support call for more broadband access

broadband-fccFederal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to announce on Wednesday a move to double broadband funding to schools and libraries.

The $1 billion increase comes from existing eRate funds and will push eRate program funds for broadband grants to $2 billion.

In a recent blog post, Wheeler noted that the FCC is poised to boost eRate funding, adding that a detailed plan is forthcoming.…Read More

Top 10 ed-tech stories of 2013, No. 1: Broadband is king

eSchool News counts down the ten most significant developments in educational technology during the past year. Our top story highlights various efforts to supply students with reliable broadband.

broadband-top10In school systems from coast to coast, tech-savvy educators experimented with augmented reality, educational gaming, and other techniques designed to enhance teaching and learning.

These are only some of the key ed-tech developments affecting K-12 schools in the past year—and we’ve got a full recap for you.

Here, the editors of eSchool News highlight what we think are the 10 most significant ed-tech stories of 2013.…Read More

Gates, Zuckerberg chip in to fund broadband in schools

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Microsoft founder Bill Gates are among several philanthropists who have pledged $9 million to a nonprofit organization that is trying to bring the internet to public school classrooms around the country, the Washington Post reports. Over the next two years, Zuckerberg has pledged to give $3 million and Gates has promised to give $2 million to Education Superhighway, a San Francisco-based nonprofit. A smattering of other, smaller foundations have agreed to give $4 million to the organization, said its chief executive, Evan Marwell…

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Plug pulled on rural broadband projects in favour of BT

A rural broadband group planning to offer superfast net services in Oxfordshire has been told that the project cannot go ahead, the BBC has learned. A similar project in Dorset was turned down last month. It comes just weeks after a report criticised the government for wasting taxpayers’ money by giving all of its broadband funds to BT. Those involved are angry that BT will monopolise rural broadband rollouts. Both Oxfordshire and Dorset county councils have signed contracts with BT to provide broadband services to rural areas. These contracts mean that alternative schemes are no longer required. Having competition in the broadband market is important, think experts…

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FCC rejects proposal for free wireless service

Federal regulators have shot down a proposal by a startup called M2Z Networks Inc. to build a free, nationwide wireless broadband network using a spare slice of airwaves, reports the Associated Press. The Federal Communications Commission on Sept. 1 said it has rejected M2Z’s request that the agency demand that the winner of an auction for the radio spectrum provide free internet service to anyone who connects to it. That condition would have mirrored M2Z’s business model of offering free basic wireless broadband access—with speeds of up to 768 kilobits per second—that would be supported by advertising in addition to a faster, premium service. “We gave careful and thorough consideration to the proposal, but ultimately determined that this was not the best policy outcome,” Ruth Milkman, head of the FCC’s wireless bureau, said in a statement. The FCC did not explain its rejection further. M2Z’s plan had encountered resistance from T-Mobile USA and other big wireless carriers, which warned that it would interfere with their own services…

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