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Published in Print: October 4, 2000, as Online-Revenue Plan Moving Forward In New York

Online-Revenue Plan Moving Forward In New York

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The New York City schools could raise anywhere from $120 million to $11.5 billion over 10 years by creating a corporate-sponsored Web site and Internet service for the district's students and families, according to an independent analysis of the proposal released last week by the city school board.

Andersen Consulting Inc., the company that conducted the study, emphasized that the actual figure would depend greatly on how the district set up the services. But the overall projections were encouraging enough to board members that they instructed Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy to draft a timetable for soliciting ideas from companies that may want to participate in the project.

The nation's largest school district is studying whether to proceed with the Web site and online service as a way to provide more technology to its students. A task force suggested last spring that the district buy laptop computers for its students, starting with its 87,000 4th graders. ("Denver, New York Seek Online Revenue," May 10, 2000.)

Commercial-Free Zone

The Andersen study recommends that the board create a revenue-generating education "portal"— a Web site designed to provide users with pertinent information while also serving as their starting point for navigating the Internet. The portal would be divided into a commercial-free education zone and a commercial zone, which would likely include advertising and online shopping, targeted to the educational needs of adults and families.

If the district became an Internet- service provider, meanwhile, all of its 1.1 million students and their families could have access to the Web from home—possibly for free.

The Andersen study describes several broad ways the portal and Internet service could raise money:

  • Commercial Web portals could pay to affiliate with a Web portal that has a vast number of the city's students and their families as loyal users.
  • Advertisers and online retailers could pay for access to users.
  • The district's formula for creating an Internet portal could be "packaged" and sold to other school districts.

The concept of a portal and Internet service has provoked considerable opposition. Critics say such a venture would subject students to advertising under district auspices and pose online threats to their privacy.

Last spring, however, the board said that, in any board-sanctioned Internet project, children's educational experiences would remain commercial-free; personal information on students would not be collected for commercial purposes; filtering software and services would restrict access to inappropriate online content; and parents' consent would be required for children's participation.

"The critics who have attacked the advertising don't understand the technology enough to realize that advertising in front of students does not have to be part of the equation," said Andrew C. Rasiej, a member of the committee advising the school board.

Vol. 20, Issue 5, Page 3

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