Rural Districts Less Connected to Internet

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Rural school districts are less likely than urban districts to be wired to the Internet, and they get fewer megabits for their buck, according to a federally funded report on the use of telecommunications in public schools in the 50 states and Puerto Rico. Subscribe to Teacher Magazine

The report, scheduled for release next month, was produced by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory and the Texas Education Network, or TENET, both in Austin, Texas. The findings were based on a telephone survey last spring of state education officials and a survey of "typical" urban and rural districts that TENET conducted last fall.

Nineteen state officials said 100 percent of their districts had some sort of Internet access, although that includes districts with just a single "dial up" access by modem and a telephone call to an Internet access provider.

Higher Price

Connie Stout, the director of TENET, said rural districts generally have a harder time finding affordable dial-up Internet service than urban districts do, because they often have to pay a costly long-distance telephone call in addition to Internet access fees.

Rural districts also report receiving inferior dedicated Internet service, she said. TENET's fall survey found that rural districts with Internet access most often have connections that send and receive data at 56,000 bits per second; urban school districts most often have T-1 lines that transmit at up to 1.54 million bits per second, or 1,050 times faster.

Experts cited two limitations to the report, which was financed by several federal agencies and private companies. The designer of the spring 1996 survey, William R. Kelly, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said the 51 respondents, while knowledgeable, relied on their own perceptions of their states and were not asked to consult records.

What's more, those survey data are now a year old in a swiftly changing area, said John Cradler, the director of learning technologies for the Council of Chief States School Officers, who was familiar with the study.

But Ms. Stout said the report's general trends and state data form a baseline against which future developments can be measured.

For a copy of the report, which costs $35, call (512) 476-6861 or write to SEDL, 211 East Seventh St., Austin, Texas 78704.

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