We all know digital learning has transformed and revolutionized education, but to take full advantage of it, robust high-speed internet would have to be made available in every one of our schools. But today 40 million students in America are being left behind and don’t have the speed they need to keep up with their peers. So a non-profit group called the EducationSuperHighway has gathered the support of 40 top executives in tech to demand that the Federal Communications Commission immediately upgrade the broadband connection in all schools. According to Evan C. Marwell, the chief executive of EducationSuperHighway, only about 30% of schools have real high-speed access (about 100 megabits per second) and only 40% can distribute Wi-Fi to students. But the reality is schools will need 10 times these data rates in three years, where classes can often have up to 40 students who would need wireless connectivity.
The Call for a Smarter E-Rate
The E-Rate is a federal program that has helped bring students online since 1996. But the speeds and directives just aren’t up to par with the amount of data consumption children are used to today. The typical school has about the same Internet access as your average home, only with hundreds to thousands more users to serve. “This is about preparing a new work force,” said Marwell. “The C.E.O.s get that; both sides of the aisle in Congress get that.” And that’s why some the supporters include Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who has also been aiding the effort to lower the cost of broadband with the Internet.org initiative.
Talking about the current budgets of schools with the New York Times, Marwell said, “They spend about $2.4 billion a year, and about half the money goes to things like voice services, email and web hosting. We need to focus on broadband.” Part of the problem is that schools are paying vastly different prices where the median cost is at an expensive $25 per megabit rate. However, the top quarter of schools only pay $2 per megabit, while the bottom quarter pays $85 and schools in wealthy districts have negotiated deals as low as 10 cents per megabit. If you think net neutrality is a problem online, what about in our schools?
“The companies would argue that it is a market price, and they are seeking profit,” he said. “This is America. The businesses are doing what businesses do best.”
The NY Times tried to reach out to spokesmen at the big telecommunication providers like AT&T and Verizon but is still awaiting responses. Likewise Marwell hasn’t tried to get any of these companies on board with the new educational plan. Perhaps they would listen to some new legislation out of Washington instead.
Do you also believe that all students should have equal access to high-speed internet? Here is how you can take action too!
Featured image via AP