Spreading Broadband Throughout the School
From the Administration
“60% of schools in America lack sufficient Wi-Fi capability to provide students with 21st Century educational tools…. Far too many schools have no Wi-Fi at all. For those that are lucky enough to be connected wirelessly, such networks often don’t meet the capacity needs of students and teachers.”
Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman, FCC Blog, June 6, 2014
The Wi-Fi gap in U.S. schools is a concern that federal, state, district and school leaders are addressing nationwide. The increase in the number of devices available on campus (both district and student owned) coupled with the increased dependence on digital content requires dependable, high speed, Wi-Fi access.
As districts and schools consider Wi-Fi access, planning is essential. Districts that have had substantial experience with Wi-Fi and companies that assist districts with networks and Wi-Fi agree that a 5-year plan with updates every year can provide a solid basis for a network that is effective. Following are some interconnected questions to consider as you begin to plan for high-speed Wi-Fi across schools and districts. The answer to one most probably will affect the answer to others.
Requirements of the network
- How many devices will the Wi-Fi network need to support now and how many devices in the short and long term future?
- How will those devices be used in the near term and in the longer term?
- Will students be reading documents and doing searches or will they be creating content such as video and uploading it?
- In addition to tablets or laptops what other types of devices on campus will need Wi-Fi access (printers, digital media players, microconsoles)?
Deployment of the network
- In addition to the devices in the classrooms, how will Wi-Fi access in “common areas” (cafeteria, hallways, courtyard, fields, etc.) on school campuses be used?
Security of the network
- What levels of access and permissions will be needed for students, teachers, administrators IT staff and guests?
- How will BYOD be handled?
Management of the network
- How centralized will the management of the network be across the district?
- Can the IT department implement the Wi-Fi network or are consulting or outside vendors required?
- Is the WLAN architecture sufficient to handle the requirements among schools?
Budget for the network
- What type of new or upgraded equipment will be required to implement or increase Wi-Fi access?
- How will W-Fi implementation impact short and long term budgets?
On July 11, 2014, the FCC adopted an E-rate Modernization Order that was intended to modernize and streamline the E-rate and expand funding for Wi-Fi networks in schools and libraries. The Order also adopted SETDA’s bandwidth targets from The Broadband Imperative. The Order attempts to provide more predictable and more equitably distributed funding for Wi-Fi networks while at the same time beginning to transition support away from legacy services. To address the critical need for Wi-Fi networks, the order set a target of providing $1 billion in annual support for internal connections. Schools can spend $150 (pre E-Rate discount), one time per student for a 5-year period beginning with funding in FY2015.