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Obama SOTU Highlights Facts-Optional School Broadband Initiative
by Karl Bode 12:52PM Wednesday Jan 29 2014
Broadband has always been a lip service favorite among politicians, rhetoric about "innovation" and a "connected tomorrow" distracting us eternally from the country's high prices, lack of competition and total government apathy to both. Last night's State of the Union was no exception, President Obama re-iterating a rather vague promise made last June that the FCC would help bring 100 Mbps broadband to 99% of schools in the next four years.

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Dubbed ConnectED (pdf), the initiative aims to pull money from the historically somewhat dysfunctional FCC E-Rate program to help subsidize these school deployments. There has been no meaningful metrics released indicating whether this program has had any impact whatsoever on school broadband deployment so far.

“Last year, I also pledged to connect 99 percent of our students to high-speed broadband over the next four years,” the President Stated. "Tonight, I can announce that with the support of the FCC and companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint, and Verizon, we've got a down payment to start connecting more than 15,000 schools and twenty million students over the next two years, without adding a dime to the deficit."

Originally, the Administration had considered levying a new USF tax on your broadband connections, but quietly backed off that idea after significant backlash.

That backlash was justified; the E-Rate program has doled out nearly $30 billion since its inception in 1998. While much of that money went to quality work connecting the nation's schools and libraries, much of it was lost in a wormhole of loose government oversight and fraud, resulting most libraries lacking the bandwidth to serve visitors despite the billions spent in endless, often-untracked subsidies to telecom companies.

An accompanying SOTU fact sheet (pdf) doesn't offer any additional facts on the initiative, other than to note that the government in the next few weeks will announce "new philanthropic partnerships" with companies like Apple, Microsoft, Sprint and Verizon. It's not specified just what these partnerships entail, or if they'll involve ponying up cash to schools, or yet more subsidies to companies.

While such private partnerships can do good by shoring up desperately-struggling school budgets, many of these kinds of initiatives are little more than glorified advertisements for company and carrier services. They're efforts that make for excellent PR events to imply involved companies are being highly altruistic, but their influence on actual school improvements is never tracked.

Combine a poorly managed subsidy fund with such glorified ad campaigns and you've effectively got a ConnectED initiative that seemingly refuses to use and hard data or metrics. It's a rehashing of existing ideas that may help here and there, but with most broadband references made in DC appears to be largely political theater.

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WHT

join:2010-03-26
Rosston, TX
kudos:5

2 recommendations

Philanthropic Partnerships

Wordsmith Alert!

You cannot use "philanthropic" and "Verizon" in the same sentence.

anonomeX

@comcast.net

Slush funds unite!

Down with the people!

Solutions

@comcast.net

2 recommendations

Would 100 mbps at ALL schools result in any student improvement?

A better question is would having 100 mbps in EVERY school actually result in improved student performance? Evidence so far would indicate the problems in many public schools are not related to availability of high speed internet, but due to poor teachers and no support by parents for the students at home. While a technical solution is relatively easy to accomplish, the real problems in the schools won't be addressed at all by a "100 mbps" initiative.
iansltx

join:2007-02-19
Austin, TX
kudos:2

Re: Would 100 mbps at ALL schools result in any student improvement?

Agreed. But a slow 'net connection shouldn't be the reason that teachers can't use rich media (HD video and the like) in the classroom.

Dr Demento
I Vant Blud

join:2002-01-02
Denville, NJ

Re: Would 100 mbps at ALL schools result in any student improvement?

It would not matter anyway when what they are exposed to is even more of a walled garden than it currently is.
iansltx

join:2007-02-19
Austin, TX
kudos:2

Re: Would 100 mbps at ALL schools result in any student improvement?

Maybe with more bandwidth IT doesn't feel the need to make things such a walled garden.

wizardry

@ohio-state.edu
Shhh. No wants wants to talk about poverty, mismanagement, and low parental involvement in underachieving areas. It's easier to use buzzwords like "technology" as if it's a magic panacea.

Dr Demento
I Vant Blud

join:2002-01-02
Denville, NJ

Re: Would 100 mbps at ALL schools result in any student improvement?

said by wizardry :

Shhh. No wants wants to talk about poverty, mismanagement, and low parental involvement in underachieving areas. It's easier to use buzzwords like "technology" as if it's a magic panacea.

Actually I have to disagree on that one, the POTUS did mull over the issues of more flexible work schedules for families with his whole 'Mad Men' work culture quip not to mention 'sharing the prosperity.'

The interesting thing about that one is the person who started the ball rolling on the former issue was a woman who had a hard time managing her maternal roll and fulfilling her ambitions of being a foreign adviser within the US State Dept. under Sec. Clinton : »www.theatlantic.com/magazine/arc···/309020/

DHRacer
Tech Monkey

join:2000-10-10
Lake Arrowhead, CA
I work for a very poor school district in California and I can tell you that we have 100M+ to every school and it isn't helping the 50% graduation rate. The biggest problem is all the ridiculous state/federal testing: schools spend the majority of their time teaching kids how to take those tests and not on an actual education that provides critical thinking, etc. However, a side benefit is that a large quantity of potential new goverment employees who spend their days bubbling circles on a form is being created...

--
"No one will believe you solved this problem in one day! We've been working on it for months. Now, go act busy for a few weeks and I'll let you know when it's time to tell them." (R&D Supervisor, Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing /3M Corp.)

Goliath2k
Premium
join:2013-12-28
united state

Why not focus on homes?

So say they do this and then all the schools have 100 Mbps. Then what? The teachers will probably wind up assuming that all the students have the same speeds at home. So then they start assigning homework and/or research assignments that require a lot of bandwidth intensive things, such as streaming video and/or video chatting.

The new State of the Internet report revealed that 66% of Americans have speeds of less than 10Mbps, I would've thought that would be mentioned in the State of the Union. A little "rah rah" patriotism maybe? "We built the Internet and now we're falling behind"

Dr Demento
I Vant Blud

join:2002-01-02
Denville, NJ

1 edit

Re: Why not focus on homes?

Don't worry about homes, in this new 'web 3.0' era. All educational assignments will be brought to you free from bandwidth caps by your (fill in the blank megaopoly ISP here). I hope this administration made a sweet deal with Sprint, Verizon and others for actually accomplishing that 4 million school goal while silently throwing Net Neutrality under the bus.

He's a lame duck now, what is there to worry about besides the legacy of his pet reform project?

Goliath2k
Premium
join:2013-12-28
united state

Re: Why not focus on homes?

Oh yeah I can just see the rationale now -- "Don't worry about net neutrality, besides, that won't affect the "average" American...but instead somebody needs to think of the children!"
silbaco
Premium
join:2009-08-03
USA
Start? They have been assigning homework that needs bandwidth intensive video for years. But considering most videos services are capable of streaming on as little as 1 Mbps DSL connections, it has not been an issue.
jjeffeory

join:2002-12-04
USA

Re: Why not focus on homes?

Also, each school is getting 100 mbps, not each teacher. I'd be willing to be that no teacher is going to get that speed in their classroom as it's going to be split with up to 50 other teachers at any one time...
silbaco
Premium
join:2009-08-03
USA

Schools

How many of those 15,000 schools can already get 100 Mbps if they wanted it? I am betting the vast majority.

100 Mbps in 4 years is actually a pretty low bar. Especially considering the big transition to 1 laptop/tablet per student.
TBBroadband

join:2012-10-26
Fremont, OH
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse
·MegaPath

Re: Schools

Many states have state DIAs that actually create a network that is already paid for by these carriers to link the schools together if they wish to be part. www.noeca.org is one of them. www.treca.org. Ohio has created several. They cut the cost of what the districts pay while being their help desk and purchasing bulk license for many of the products they use; some even operate their own home schools online.

blackice

join:2014-01-02
Pittsfield, MA

1 recommendation

Lack of technology in schools is NOT the problem.

In 2006, when i was in the 7th grade, my middle school had a new program that gave MacBooks to every 7th grade student. All schools in the district were fitted with WiFi, and teachers were trained to use new educational software.

Then, as the school year went on, we did almost nothing with all that brand new technology. We were told that we would have electronic copies of text books, E-mailed homework assignments, electronic note taking, and various other things. Yet, we got hardly any of that. A few essays written on MS word, and that was about it. We didn't take notes using the MacBooks because teachers couldn't tell if students were paying attention or not, no electronic text books because the school would have to purchase new licenses for the books, and no e-mailed homework assignments because the school prohibited use of e-mail or any another form of electronic communication for some inexplicable reason. The school year was the same as the last, only now we had to lug around a 13" brick from class to class. Millions of tax dollars wasted.

You can give schools more technology than the pentagon, it won't result in anything, if you don't have good teachers that will utilize it.
WhatNow
Premium
join:2009-05-06
Charlotte, NC
Reviews:
·Time Warner Cable

Re: Lack of technology in schools is NOT the problem.

Where are the schools that have not gotten a connection? If they have have not gotten something even if it is not 100Meg then they are not trying very hard or the politicians are dumb penny wise pound foolish.
I also don't understand why an organization that requires kids to take test and change the way they live can't seem to get out of the early 1900s way of doing things. I am not a teacher but my parents were and most of my long time friends are teachers. I realize anything that goes wrong is blamed on the teacher even when everybody in the class knows it is an individual or small group causing the problem in a class with too many students.

Twaddle

@charter.com

We haven't forgotten...

That all the various Federal Taxes/USF funds that were "Supposed" to bring this very same service to schools and libraries. Just more rah-rah feel good grand standing but the POTUS. How many times must a library/school be wired for the internet and how many students can actually use the "Broadband services" that are offered (or even want to?). MR President, get out into the real world and get rid of th political ass-kissers who feed you the information you want to hear and see the truth.
TimCo

join:2005-01-14
Ronkonkoma, NY

I already pay enough tax.

The tax for the School district is about $3500.00 a year. for my house, a small house in a middle class area. They have had high speeds for years.

repeal OBAMA!
TBBroadband

join:2012-10-26
Fremont, OH
Reviews:
·AT&T U-Verse
·MegaPath

Re: I already pay enough tax.

He's not creating a tax for this. Did you even read. These PRIVATE companies are PAYING for this network. And you need to take it up with your state about paying school taxes on your property. In some states it is illegal. Ohio being one of them. And has been for years.
miser

join:2004-01-16
Sandusky, OH
Reviews:
·buckeye cable

Re: I already pay enough tax.

said by TBBroadband:

In some states it is illegal. Ohio being one of them. And has been for years.

So, I can just omit that portion of my real estate tax to the local county auditor come Feb 14? Sweet! That'll save me $1200/year. What state law or ORC can I quote?

Lone Wolf
Retired
Premium
join:2001-12-30
USA
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Verizon Online DSL

Re: I already pay enough tax.

said by miser:

What state law or ORC can I quote?

Just send them a link to this page!
v12dock

join:2011-05-21
Chillicothe, IL

No thanks

No thanks Obama you can keep your NSA.net government cheese. I will not be using it in the school I Network Administrate

KrK
Heavy Artillery For The Little Guy
Premium
join:2000-01-17
Tulsa, OK

I believe Obama.....

...because this will be another big source of income for incumbents like at&t and Verizon. They'll be all for it.

Therefore, this is likely to happen. Paid for via the USF, of course.
--
"Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." -- Benito Mussolini

goalieskates
Premium
join:2004-09-12
land of big

You could have stopped after ...

You could have stopped the title after "Obama SOTU Highlights Facts-Optional."

All the tech in the world can't educate students by itself. What it can (and does) do is make tons more money for a whole lot of campaign contributors under the guise of helping "the children". Based on its track record, the FCC's solution will be bloated, substandard, and very very expensive. Whoopee.
kc8jwt

join:2005-10-27
Syracuse, OH

Wiring Schools

I want to take some time to expand on what TBBroadband said about the schools here in Ohio and how they get their internet. Excuse me if it seems long winded.

I happen to work for a K-12 school in Southeastern Ohio as the Technology Coordinator. The job is basically the technology director for the district. Years ago in the 70's schools in Southeastern Ohio partnered together to provide services that would be cost prohibitive for individual schools to purchase on their own. These cooperatives also started providing computers services over time. There are now around 22 such ITC's (Information Technology Centers) in Ohio.

In Southeastern Ohio poverty is widespread and as a result, school budgets are not large as compared to the bigger cities. SEOVEC is the ITC that services a large part of this area. When I came into education in 1999, the school that I was at had 1 T1 line for internet access. Over time, we added another T1, but it couldn't keep up with the amount of data that we were pulling from the internet and also to use the applications at SEOVEC to conduct the business of the school. In 2007 and 2008, the consortium started building a fiber optic network to service the building. Using the local phone and cable companies local to the schools, AT&T, Verizon (now Frontier), and Time Warner helped to build the network to connect the schools. This network offered 10M service to most schools, but that bandwidth was used as well. In 2010, another company received stimulus money and started building a dedicated network to all of the served schools so they would be through the same vendor. As a result, most of the other companies started offering 100M internet to keep our business. I took a position at a different school this past summer and our situation is unique. Our elementary school uses AT&T transport back to the ITC and our high school uses Horizon Telecom.

The biggest issue that schools run into is physically wiring the buildings. The newest building we have in our district was built late 50's early 60's. We still have a building in use that was open in 1928. The walls are three to four feet thick and impossible to run cable through.

It is amazing that in 20 years, schools are using internet and electronic devices for learning. I never had those options when I was in school. Our district was selected to be a pilot site for the new PARCC testing that is surrounded with controversy. This adds to data that will be pushed down the pipes during testing. We were given a very short time to become ready for this testing. Our legislators in the state seem to see fit to try to scuttle the test, but I know that many schools have spent thousands of dollars to upgrade equipment to be compliant with PARCC requirements ranging from desktops, laptops, iPads, Chromebooks, network equipment, and OS updates. Professionally, I am doing everything I can to be prepared for the test. Personally, I think the test will be a failure. During my testing I am finding small infrastructure issues that need corrected.

I have not been a big supporter of the President and his initiatives during his two terms. My thoughts have been that if you are going to wire these schools up. The internet is going to be used at most 7 hours a day for 9 months. Some schools have opened up community access to these resources after hours some times and those programs have been successful on a small part. Schools are supposed to be a cornerstone of the local community. If the community is against the school, it in my opinion, looses it's effectiveness to properly educate our children. If a school utilizes technology to successfully supplement the curriculum, then they should go forward with it.

On the other hand though, I think that limited government involvement in regulating education is the answer, not more government involvement. Teachers are teaching to a test. If you look at our education system, we are a society of regurgitating facts. We are preparing our children to get into a routine. Get up. Go to school. Come home. As grown ups, what do we do? Get up. Go to work. Come home. Other nations do a much better job preparing their children for life after school.
tbradley

join:2014-01-30

ConnectEd is a joke

He plagiarized the bandwidth recommendations from SETDA (State Educational Technology Directors Association) that recommended 100 megs per 1,000 students ----- not per school. As a network admin for a district who monitors his bandwidth daily, even this number is a bit high, even with 1:1 and BYOD.
Technicholas
Premium
join:2010-11-11
Winterset, IA

We have 1,000 students

Hello,

We have around 1,000 students and staff we have 50mbps and that is not enough I ordered 200mbps for next year! We upgraded our WiFi and everyone is now at 300mbps N speeds.