SETDA Speaks on National Broadband Map

By Ian Quillen — February 23, 2011 2 min read
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A recently released map that illustrates broadband Internet availability nationwide reiterates the need for action to increase schools’ connectivity speeds, according to a press release issued today by the State Educational Technology Directors Association, or SETDA.

The map accompanies a corresponding survey by the National Telecommunications and Information Agency, a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, that finds two-thirds of schools have connection speeds of lower than 25 megabits per second, or Mbps, while most schools need connectivity of 50-100 Mpbs.

Connection speed can affect any number of educational functions within a school, including the distribution of electronic documents, streaming of educational video or audio content, and intra-campus electronic communication.

“Without continued and direct investment in broadband and educational technologies, education reformers are asking schools to improve, innovate, and compete with one hand tied behind their back,” said Douglas Levin, SETDA’s executive director, in the release.

The map echoes calls from from the Federal Communications Commission in its National Broadband Plan, released almost a year ago, that made several policy recommendations designed to increase national broadband access throughout communities, including at schools and libraries.

While many of its recommendations require approval and cooperation from Congress, the executive branch, state and local governments, and the private for-profit and nonprofit sectors, the FCC took some action last October, indexing funding for the federal E-Rate technology purchasing program for inflation and allowing schools to use E-Rate funds to purchase fiber network connectivity that theoretically could increase speeds and reduce costs.

The interactive National Broadband Map allows users to look at broadband connectivity by type, using buttons at the top to sift between DSL, cable modem, mobile telephone network, and terrestrial wireless connections. And it depicts a nation where, not surprisingly, connectivity in metropolitan areas far exceeds that in rural areas, but also where topography and state technology climate may be factors.

Mountainous states like Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky lag behind in connectivity to plain states like Indiana, Iowa, and Minnesota. And Indiana and Massachusetts residents appear to have connectivity options beyond expectation considering their population, while options in California, the union’s most populous state, are perhaps surprisingly limited.

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.