With more and more schools using technology in the classroom, it has become critical to integrate a functional, high-speed network into their campus infrastructure. And while the vast majority of schools realize the importance of decent internet, actually implementing a plan that seamlessly puts your students, faculty and staff online is much easier said than done.
This realization comes at an important time for schools around the country. In 2013, the U.S. government set forth a number of connectivity goals that they have incentivized schools to meet. But even with those incentives in place, many schools have struggled to meet those goals. A recent survey by The Consortium for School Networking found that only 66 percent of schools have met all of the governmental standards. So what holds schools back from having the type of high-speed network that is now all but required? Here are a few reasons:
As anymore with home internet can tell you, having your own network isn’t free. With many schools already operating on a very tight budget as it is, incurring extra costs to meet governmental internet standards may very well be untenable at the moment, even with subsidies available. In that previously mentioned survey, 46 percent of respondents said that high monthly costs were their biggest hindrance, while 34 percent cites high upfront costs. For those schools that don’t have the necessary cash, lofty goals, even if they are set by the government, can often mean very little.
Lack of Providers
This one goes hand in hand with cost, as schools that are in remote or rural areas often don’t have more than a couple service providers available to them, with 54 percent of rural survey respondents saying that there is only one internet provider in their area. This lack of competition means that those providers can, essentially, charge whatever they’d like for service. This, again, puts schools on a tight budget in the unenviable position of either paying through the nose for the service they want, or continuing to roll with a substandard connection.
Dynamic Content Drawing on Bandwidth
Even if a school thinks it has a solid connection, it must take into account the types of media its connection will be used for. In a classroom setting, fast internet is going to be mostly used for interactive, dynamic content. This includes things like videos, online quizzes, even games. All of those activities can be a drain on your bandwidth, especially if they are used school-wide across a number of classrooms. Many schools find this difficult to plan for within their budget, as the amount of interactive content being used each day can vary greatly.
Another thing schools may not account for is students bringing multiple electronic devices to campus each day with the intention of using them around school. Whether it is a phone, a laptop, an iPad or any other network connected device, there are sure to be at least some students who will want to log on to your network with more than one. This means that when planning for improve a school’s network, it is important to account not just for the amount of students that will be enrolled, but for the possibility that each of those students bringing more than one device with them each day.
The FCC currently recommends a bandwidth of 100 megabytes per second per 100 students, along with a 5-year goal of 1 gigabyte per second per 100 students. This means that as time goes along, schools will be expected to consistently upgrade their connection in order to meet those recommendations. It's important for schools to remember that a strong network is not a one-off purchase - it's a constant investment.