School District Funding, high-speed Internet service?

According to the the Wall Street Journal, referenced in the e-newsletter regarding grants for high speed internet services, telecom carriers will be getting government grants to expand Internet access into underserved and underdeveloped areas:

“The Commerce Department’s Internet buildout grants carry several conditions, including a contentious requirement that Internet networks built with the government grants be open to all devices like cell phones and laptops, regardless of the manufacturer or provider.

CTIA, an association of wireless companies, sent a letter to committee leaders Wednesday asking that the “vague, undefined, and unnecessary ‘open access’ obligation” be removed. CTIA said carriers will be reluctant to apply for the grants if they are uncertain of their open access obligations.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D., Calif.), an ardent proponent of an open Internet principle called “net neutrality,” brushed aside the carriers’ concerns. “These are public dollars. Networks built with this funding should be open,” Ms. Eshoo said.

While the above grants are said only for underserved areas, one has to wonder if areas already served by a few big providers couldn’t use a little more competition.

We know the huge telecom ISPs don’t seem to care nearly as much about service as profit. Today’s example is from an article titled Cox . . .  BitTorrent Users with More Slowdowns:

“In February, Cox will trial a brand new throttling scheme that aims to slow down so-called “non-time sensitive” traffic when the network is congested. This includes all P2P, FTP and Usenet traffic. Although Cox announced the trials – which will start in Kansas and Arkansas – on its website, details are scarce.

. . . 

Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, is also concerned with Cox’s new plans. He said in a response to the news, “The lesson we learned from the Comcast case is that we must be skeptical of any practice that comes between users and the Internet.” Indeed, network neutrality is at stake – again.

While I don’t generally use bittorrent, I do use FTP quite a bit when working on the websites, and I used to love Usenet, particularly the astrology channels, some 15 years or so back. Unfortunately, the astrology Usenet groups seemed to get taken over by activity which, for me at least, was distracting, though I know I’ve read recently that some still love Usenet, and if true, why should they be “slowed down”?

On the momentary topic of “slow downs”, recently I did some maintenance work for an old friend that required room & board (to keep commuting costs down) for a few weeks. This was in a BIG Southern California city, one with well-developed broadband markets! I took my laptop, as the residence had cable-delivered Internet and a router. Wow, what a slow down it was that occurred in the evenings, slow downs on webpage requests, and this was so-called premium Internet service! Very irritating. I was able to fix the issue on my computer by wiring around some of their systems, but how many of their customers just figure that’s the way it is and nothing can be done about it? Much better if people watch TV in the evenings is possibly the big-company “incentive” of intertwined interests we’re talking about here.

Could local public school districts provide Internet service to their surrounding communities at a competitive cost to that of the current broadband ISPs with sufficient incentives provided by the Federal government to do so? It seems the path of local school as ISP has been done in the past (link dated 1999) with dial-up Internet service:

“Although the Williamsville Community Unit School District already received Internet access courtesy of the state, reselling this access was not an option, explains Marty Benner, a board member in the district. Instead, the district installed a leased satellite system to acquire additional Internet access that could be resold. After an initial investment of $33,000, the district began selling the Internet access to the community last April. “That’s really why we did it,” Benner says. “It was not meant as a money-maker, but rather as a service to the community.”

As long as our government continues to grant corporate welfare to the largest telecom providers (privatize profits and socialize risks), it seems the likely answer is that local schools could not offer the service competitively. Can public schools receive federal government grants so they can be just as competitive in the ISP arena? If so, this might be something that schools could do to help fund their goals of educating the local community’s children, without needing to take more money from those of us without children, instead we could choose to purchase Internet access from the them.

I’d bet a lot of folks would LOVE to get high-speed broadband from the local schools, but it would have to be competitive price wise with current cable and DSL providers in order for this model to be successful. You can bet the corporatist would fight this one: ahem, only going for “underserved” areas, such as that reported by the WSJ’s article linked above. The more corporate welfare telecoms can get, the less competitive local ISPs, such as schools, could be.

Can you imagine the economic stimulus for local communities if tax monies taken by the federal government were given back to local communities as services for the commons?

It is undoubtedly true that the schools of the future will be much different from the recent past and presumably current model of Absolute Authoritarianism or Prussian methods.

Is this white paper a glance at the future of the new schools of the 21st century?

“As important as it is for physical structures to be adaptable, “it is even more important that class time be elastic. Instead of assigning a certain amount of time for teaching one subject per day, teachers need the flexibility of bigger and more adjustable time slots to truly impact learning,” said Charles Fadel, global lead for education for Cisco Systems. “There must be a renewed focus on increasing the quality of teaching by [giving] teachers more time and opportunities to plan, collaborate, and work with advanced technology systems.”

Local public schools as broadband ISPs, perhaps wireless to the local surrounding community, could be an incremental step in that direction, though it would have to be applied not only to undeveloped and underserved areas, but also to already developed broadband markets.

What better way to learn computers is there than to have students help maintain the technology infrastructure alongside true computer engineers and professional teachers?

2 thoughts on “School District Funding, high-speed Internet service?

  1. I would certainly have to agree that there is no better way to facilitate computer learning than to have the students participate in the maintenance of the infrastructure! Yes, this methodology would have to be adopted in the developed broadband markets as well.

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