Missing Roads: Students Stranded without Internet

When a hurricane, typhoon strikes a remote area, as a citizen of the U.S. where every surface appears paved, every destination has an asphalt road leading to it, I am always amazed that the only way for people to help is to walk, climb, float or fly. It’s a frightening thought–help is a helicopter flight away.

Source: http://bit.ly/1PCO69s

“In a country where we expect free wifi with our coffee,” said President Obama in June 2013, “we should definitely demand it in our schools.” Many would go so far as to say, we need it in our children’s homes, too. As the Internet becomes even more essential to student success, it’s clear that more needs to be done to connect families at home.

Case Study: As I recorded here, 1:1 Infrastructure for Equitable Mobility, large Texas districts like Dallas ISD have put in a lot of blood, sweat, money and tears to get students connected at home. Dallas ISD did a wireless study to discover  how the District can provide a wireless connection to students, which do not have any internet connections, throughout the Dallas urban area. They found several possible options, including setup of an 802.11 wireless mesh system homing back access points to nearest school or network location, microwave antennas for hard to reach places, local internet service providers, issuing WiFi hotspots, and private LTE.

Wow, that’s fairly mind-boggling! What should the role of schools be in making this happen? Per a this study, CoSN Infrastructure Survey Highlights Broadband Progress and Troubling Gaps, there is an expectation schools provide access to students at home.

And this is reflected in some of the presentations I’ve seen at Conferences, not unlike Dallas ISD. I’ve seen an increasing push for school districts to cover the cost of creating networks so that students can have Internet access at home.

“For some families, $9.95 a month is still too much,” Leonard said. “Also, one hard-wired computer per family doesn’t necessarily work in our world anymore. If I’m giving kids iPads and MacBook Airs to bring home, those are not hard-wired devices. They work in a wireless environment. Even if you did hardwire one of them, you can only have one computer on that hard-wired system at a time. You need a router.” Source: Bandwidth for All, THE Journal 

When you consider that EVERYTHING is on the Web, I can’t imagine many schools arguing that this isn’t essential. Internet is a utility, like telephones, electricity.

…many rural schools are looking to expand bandwidth by installing fiber optics, either between buildings or across parts of the community. “They have to negotiate right of way, or even crossing rail road tracks,” he said. “That’s where it takes a lot of work and leadership in the local community. It may take five years. In many cases, the community may look to bond funds or other sources in addition to the E-rate program to get that funding in place.” Source: Bandwidth for All, THE Journal

For all schools, getting their pupils connected at home can be a daunting task. Comcast’s effort, laudable as it is, isn’t getting the job done in San Antonio, Texas, USA.

We need a better solution. What is your district doing?

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

One thought on “Missing Roads: Students Stranded without Internet

  1. Seth Hansen November 13, 2015 at 3:36 am Reply

    Last spring our survey results showed that a high majority of our students had high-speed internet at home. With that in mind I decided to talk with a local ISP in our area about partnering with them to deliver HSI to homes of free/reduced lunch students who didn't have internet at home. I'm happy to share after a lot of work we are implementing the solution for a pilot campus this year and hope to extend it to our free/reduced MS and HS students next year. I haven't had a chance to document the process formally, but hope to share that at the appropriate time and with the permission of the ISP. I'll go into why we decided to go this route over some of the other options out there and why it made sense for us.

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