It’s almost been twenty years since American schools began having access to funding to wire their schools though the federally funded e-Rate program administered by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC). Unfortunately, if you live in a poor rural area of this country, you will still find that the speed and reliability of connections to your schools are not what they are in your state’s larger cities or more populous communities. It will not be high-speed Internet. In fact, teachers and students may be spending more time trying to connect to the Internet than in actually teaching and learning with it. I know Al Gore has moved on to saving the world’s environment but we could really use his help on this one since he very instrumental when all this began during the Clinton years. He must be feeling our pain.
There are a relatively small number of schools and communities that have this lack of needed connectivity, but our larges telecommunications companies seem to have little interest in connecting to them. And there is little competition to provide services. Seven percent of U.S. schools nationwide fail to find bidders when looking to upgrade Internet connectivity according to the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN). Should our federal, state and local governments be doing more? Or should we just let a “free market” take care of all this. Students in many European and Asian countries have better connectivity. (See U.S. Department of Education report on International Experiences with Technology in Education, http://tech.ed.gov/files/2013/10/iete-full-report-1.doc).
I know there are many geopolitical and geographic challenges that are unique to our American schools. But we are, or can be, “great” again as we will continue to hear throughout this campaign year. Let’s make our schools part of that challenge, promise?