We The People Want More Broadband Investments for Our Nation’s Classrooms

As P-12 schools continue the digitization of education, a “We-the People” petition for greater broadband Internet access for schools has emerged from COSN and ISTE.

 

The “We The People” petition window closes tomorrow, May 1, 2013 and it requires 100,000 signatures before the White House will make any formal response. With just 2,000 signatures before the deadline, a lot more people need to sign the petition to get an official response.

I wanted to write this to improve upon the case presented in the petition. To make this argument more effective, I believe it should be an investment in broadband for expanding student learning. The petition anchors the argument in classroom broadband as a guaranteed means to ensure college and career readiness.  There is evidence to suggest that high-speed broadband investment will have a greater net effect for students being ready for the next stage in their career.

The Communications Workers of America published the report, A Report on Internet Speeds in All 50 States-2010, that highlights the growing disparity between the US and other developed nations broadband speeds. The report states that the US ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption. Nations in southeast Asia and Europe are leapfrogging the US in both Internet connection speed and adoption.

In 2010, the FCC published The National Broadband Plan that sets the goal number of 100 million US homes having a minimum download speed of at least 100 megabits per second (mbps) and actual upload speeds of a minimum 50 mbps. That would be ideal a dream come true today. The fourth goal sets forth that our schools should have a minimum of at 1 gigabit per second as anchor institutions in the community.

The State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA) went further in their report on “The Broadband Imperative” by recommending that the federal government, states, and districts take responsibility for ensuring easy access to robust broadband connectivity outside of schools. As education sector moves closer to personalized learning through connected PC devices, learners are going to need greater broadband access beyond schools to keep pace with immersive digital content and online learning. Lastly, the National Education Technology Plan (NETP) 2010 calls for “comprehensive… broadband access to the Internet and adequate wireless connectivity both in and out of school” for each learner and educator.

The number of connected digital devices per person is expected to continue to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future. By the time education get 1:1 student learning implemented, it will be time develop a 1:3 student-to-digital device strategy. In meantime, we are going to need a better infrastructure to make it real.

You have less than 24-hours to sign the petition.

Here’s the multi-billion dollar question: How do we (as a nation) pay for expanding our national broadband infrastructure schools and communities in our post-recession recovery?