Schools need broadband. Perusing materials from Minnesota Educational Technology Networks, I’ll pull out just a few reasons schools need broadband:
- Online standard testing
- Textbooks are increasingly online
- Parent portals, allowing parents and students to check in on progress and assignments
- Distance learning, including post-secondary Education opportunities
- Remote field trips and special guests
- Cloud computing for administration
Add libraries to the equation and you can add a few more reasons:
- Providing public access to users without technology and/or broadband
- Opportunities to learn how to use technology
With the increase in one-to-one student-to-device (iPad, Chromebook) programs, the need for broadband is increasing. We talk about the homework gap for students who can’t get online with their devices at home – imagine the students who have reduced access at school. It’s just difficult to think that they are getting the same opportunities as kids who have no troubles getting online at school and at home. I just heard from Little Crow Telemedia Network that they have doubled their bandwidth needs in one year due to 1-1 and other online resources they need.
Traditionally broadband costs for schools have been covered by the federal Erate program with state funding helping to fill the gap. That’s no longer the case. Erate is cutting back on what if funds (no long distance and local telephone costs will no longer be fully covered) and the state funding that covered costs a few years ago is no longer covering costs. You can see the direction costs and funding are going below. (Thanks to METN for the info.)
What it comes down to is Minnesota schools need $7 million more in funding a year to cover their costs. As I heard one educator say – We are not asking much but for a lot of district this means $20-30,000 in funding or half the cost of a teacher.
The costs and therefore the gaps are not created equal. In 2013, I wrote about specific libraries’ connections and costs. A standout comparison I remember:
Pioneerland Library System libraries have T1 connections (with the exception of Willmar). Annual cost per library is about $15,600 while East Central libraries are predominately 100 Mbps – with one library enjoy a Gig and two at 10 Mbps. Costs range from $5,000 to $14,000 – just to note the high cost does not cover the high bandwidth.
I don’t know the current costs – but to provide equal access to students throughout Minnesota, schools need more support.