Obama SOTU Highlights Facts-Optional School Broadband Initiative
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.
(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.
Philanthropic Partnerships Wordsmith Alert!
You cannot use "philanthropic" and "Verizon" in the same sentence.
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.
Re: Would 100 mbps at ALL schools result in any student improvement?
said by wizardry :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.'
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.
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/
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.
Re: I already pay enough tax.
said by TBBroadband: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?
In some states it is illegal. Ohio being one of them. And has been for years.
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.