District Administration June 2017 - 64

DISTRICT CIO

BULK UP ON BANDWIDTH

"It's the equivalent
of electricity in
schools today."
-Christine Fox,
deputy executive director, SETDA

But with bandwidth getting cheaper
and faster-and the availability of substantial federal E-rate assistance-there's
little reason for a school or district to
exceed their data capacity. The drop in
cost has motivated administrators to beef
up their networks to handle the future
demands that will come with the evergrowing power of technology.
More megabits
Adding capacity may cost only a little
more-and sometimes less. The typical
school in 2015 had access to 449 Mbps
of bandwidth that cost an average of
$4,527 per month. By 2016, 42 percent of
schools upgraded their connection speed

to an average of 1.34 Gbps, at $4,862 per
month, according to the report "2016
State of the States" by the San Franciscobased EducationSuperHighway, a nonprofit that seeks to make sure every classroom has sufficient bandwidth.
In other words, the average cost of
buying a megabit per second of data access
went down from $10 to $3.60 per month.
In early 2014, Colorado's St. Vrain
Valley School District's chief technology
officer, Joe McBreen, took advantage of
these bargain-basement data prices. The
district's 1 Gbps line was just about maxed
out and its schools needed more capacity. At any particular time, the St. Vrain
Valley's 52 facilities had 40,000 systems

Will 5G solve bandwidth problems?
Ultimately, the answer to delivering school bandwidth might require a radical
rethink in which districts scrap expensive IT infrastructure in favor of pure wireless
connections. Next-generation 5G mobile-phone communications capable of moving
as much as 1 Gbps directly to a device could make obsolete the school's optical data
line, server rooms, miles of network cabling and Wi-Fi access points.
Essentially, every device-from a third-grader's tablet and teacher's notebook
to central office desktops-would have a direct link to the public mobile phone data
network, the way your mobile phones do today. It would potentially be faster than all
but what a handful of schools have now. But it might only be an option-at least at
first-in Dallas, Denver, Miami and Washington, D.C., and several other urban areas
where Verizon will debut the technology. (A complete list is at DAmag.me/5g.)
Plus, school administrators would have to get comfortable with giving up some
control by relying on vendors to deliver, secure and store data.
The big stumbling block is economics. Rather than maintaining an internal
network, a district would pay on a per-machine basis for its data and might be
subject to data limits.

64 June 2017

connected to its data access line through
its WiFi network. To boost the district's
data connection, he went to the local
municipal electricity company, Longmont
Power & Communications, and obtained
an optical-fiber 10 Gbps line. The surprise was that the cost went down from
$370,000 to $270,000 a year, and E-rate
money covers half its annual cost.
"We increased our bandwidth by 10
times and had a huge cost savings without
any construction costs," says McBreen.
The district now plans to add six iPad
Minis to each middle school classroom.
"We're now as future-proof as we can be,"
he adds.
Hopatcong Borough Schools purchased its online access through a co-op,
the Educational Services Commission
of New Jersey. It had to spend only an
extra $100 a month to more than triple
its bandwidth from 300 Mbps to 1 Gbps.
There were no construction costs and
the district now pays $3,400 a month, half
of which is covered by E-rate payments.
The district's 1 Gbps data limit provides plenty of leeway. "We typically use
about 300 Mbps out of a 1 Gbps limit
at any time," Bisignani says. "The most
popular use is online curriculum, but the
school's thirst for data will only grow in
the future."
The data's in the details
Think of a school's data like water flowing through a pipe, with each online user
siphoning off some of the pressure. Without a wide pipe and adequate supply, the
data well will run dry-and there's no
bandwidth left for additional instruction,
research or administrative tasks.
"It's the equivalent of electricity in
schools today-not having access to adequate data is the same as a teacher walking
into a classroom and the lights not turning
on," says Christine Fox, deputy executive
director of the State Educational Technology Directors Association (SETDA)
and one of the authors of the report
"The Broadband Imperative II: Equitable
Access for Learning."
A child completing an online multiple-

District Administration


http://www.DAmag.me/5g

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of District Administration June 2017

District Administration June 2017 - Cover1
District Administration June 2017 - Cover2
District Administration June 2017 - 1
District Administration June 2017 - 2
District Administration June 2017 - 3
District Administration June 2017 - 4
District Administration June 2017 - 5
District Administration June 2017 - 6
District Administration June 2017 - 7
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