As U.S. public schools nationwide embrace Apple iPads, many struggle with slow Internet speeds

“As public schools nationwide embrace instruction via iPads, laptops and other technologies, many are realizing they lack the necessary broadband speed to perform even simple functions,” Stephanie Banchero reports for The Wall Street Journal. “An estimated 72% of public schools have connections that are too slow to take full advantage of digital learning, according to EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit that tests school broadband speeds and works to upgrade Internet access. The average school has about the same speed as the average American home, while serving 200 times as many users, according to the Obama administration. Expanding high-speed Internet in schools involves upgrading wiring, expanding Wi-Fi capabilities or simply spending more money to purchase faster service.”

“‘Just as people are getting excited about the power of what the Internet offers to students and teachers, they are running into the buzz saw of infrastructure,’ said Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway,” Banchero reports. “President Barack Obama has made expanding high-speed Internet a top priority and launched an initiative last summer, dubbed ConnectED, that aims to bring it to virtually every school in five years and to train teachers how to use technology. The administration wants the FCC to modernize the E-rate program and has hinted that a fee increase might be needed.”

“But there has been pushback, including from some congressional Republicans who don’t want fees raised on consumers,” Banchero reports. “Others say the federal program is antiquated — it is still possible to get money for paging service, for example — and needs to revamp how it gives out money. Randolph May, president of the Free State Foundation, a think tank that advocates for lighter telecom regulation, said that before a fee increase, the FCC should ‘determine whether the current money is being spent wisely and whether it is achieving its purposes, which should be to further academic achievement.'”

Read more in the full article here.

18 Comments

  1. The NSA has posted a solution to the problem. If you live near a school simply unlock your wifi. As an added benefit it also make their job easier, although the spokesperson declined to elaborate on what that meant. 🙂

  2. Let me put it this way. In the order of ranking based on desirability (in the context of school deployment):

    1. Mac
    2. iPad
    3. Windows netbook
    4. Windows PC
    5. Chromebook
    6. Android tablet

    If Macs are too expensive (for whatever reason), then iPads would be best. I use my iPad Air all the time to tune in to iTunesU and have learned so much. I shouldn’t wonder then that the iPad is an appropriate tool for schools.

    As for the paucity of high speed internet connections at school, because the iPad still has reasonable storage capacity (again depending on whether it’s a 16, 32, 64 or 128 GB model – the 32GB model is more than adequate) as compared to say a Chromebook, you can still be productive in the absence of reliable Internet access. If you’re on a Chromebook, you’re dead in the water without Internet access.

    All in all I love my iPad Air. A non-retina iPad mini would be just as suitable for school use, if cost is a constraint.

  3. I worked for a school district. A lot of it comes down to money. Schools can barely supply the basic needs for their students let alone the type of investments needs to upgrade their infrastructures. Add to that the hostility coming from Republicans towards giving more money to education, schools are pretty much left in a lurch.

    Another problem at the school district I worked at, was not enough electrical service. After building several computer labs, installing computers in the library, and putting two to three in every classroom, they quickly found out the wiring and service of inadequate to support the demands of so many new electrical devices.

    The only way to address these issues, is with money that just isn’t there. It’s a Catch 22.

    Inner city schools are suffering the worst being saddled with old schools and infrastructure designed for a different era. These are the kids that need it the most if they’re to have any hope of being lifted out of poverty. Unfortunately, they’re also the least likely to get the resources needed to provide them with what is needed. Seems like a real shame to me. I’m glad we were able to afford to live in a town with an A+ school district. Unfortunately, too many people don’t have that option.

    1. Actually, it all comes down to choices. For the cost of a day of war in the near east you could put fiber to every classroom in America. In the day of the Information Superhighway, every school in the country is on a one lane dirt road. Instead we’ve chosen to pursue…umm, why are we in Iraq and Afghanistan? I’m a little hazy on that just now.

      Oh, wait, we’re going after that dead guy we found in Pakistan and we’re getting lots of cheap oil from Iraq. Yeah, that’s it.

        1. You mean if you want to live a generally simple life, adhere to at least some moral traditions, care about your family and friends, prefer not to see runaway government increasing in size week after week, doing things like spending $600,000 on a new linked in profile for one department, you should vote Democrat?

          You mean if I have great disdain for government waste, feel that the country shouldn’t be spending billions on spying on its own citizens,
          am disgusted by a President and his affiliations who race bait and cater to special interest groups rather than seeking consensus I should be voting Democrat?

          I don’t think that word means what you think it does.

          1. The Republicans offer no solutions. Particularly regarding math, science, technology, human rights. If you’re a brainwashed bigot go ahead and parrot Fox. The jig is up. The party of ignorance and stupidity. The world laughs.

  4. A couple points:

    1) This is NOT about ‘speed’. It’s entirely about bandwidth. You can take the absolute fastest Internet connection available and clog it to a near standstill by having too many users sharing the connection. So please wipe ‘speed’ entirely out of the conversation.

    2) To hell with the politicians, all of them. The schools require all the bandwidth they can physically maintain. Just give the schools the bandwidth NOW and STFU all the noise that stops that from happening NOW.

    #MyStupidGovernment: Creators to the new STUPID GENERATION of children who have inadequate resources, inadequate teachers, inadequate funding, inadequate classroom control, INADEQUATE EDUCATION. That means an enormous, vast drain of resources on #MyStupidGovernment in the future because these kids will not have the means required for making an adequate living.

    IOW: Either make education a #1 priority in the USA, or pack it in and give up! So long USA. It doesn’t get more simple, clear and obvious.

    And yes parents, that means YOU are involved. If you can’t enable and encourage your kids to learn and make the best of themselves, that makes YOU as parents the prime source of your child’s destruction. Get to work and educate your own children. #MyStupidGovernment is NOT the boss of anything, ever. We The People are the boss of our nation and We make it work.

      1. Don’t worry, Derek. The great and benevolently impartial “market forces” will soon provide all the bandwidth (and speed) we need. The country that developed the Internet will soon catch up to all those countries that are now way ahead of us. Regulations and money are not needed.

        1. My friends in Denmark have been taunting me for years with their bandwidth. Meanwhile in the USA, Time Warner, the cable dummies I’m stuck with, keep trying to pull a con-job bandwidth usage fee that’s 10x higher than their actual costs. The usual self-destructive, screw-thy-customer crap. Gimme-money, I give you crap in return.

  5. If our Federal Government would stop pissing away money on foreign wars, the IRS, Social Security etc, and instead use the money to fund improvements in our education system, our infrastructure, our Manufacturing abilities, our Health System etc., etc., etc!

  6. The state lottery, a voluntary tax with benefits.

    Think about that the next time you play. States setup lotteries to pay for public education but that doesn’t always happen. Considering how many states are gutting state jobs and programs including education it makes you wonder how much if any of this lotto money is being spent on education and its resources.

    1. Florida is an exemplar of what you describe: the legislators set up an “education lottery” to expand funding. It didn’t take them long to use that input stream *to replace* the current funding. They were able to cut education funding and replace it with the lottery, a.k.a. a tax on the innumerate, broadcasting as to how wonderful they were for “restraining spending.” Hypocritical, cynical buffoonery!

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