Broadband for Schools: Do We Need Gbps Bandwidth?

picture of Harry KellerBy Harry Keller
Editor, Science Education

A great many people are agitating for broadband in schools.1 They insist that our young people will not be prepared for the future without it. If you look at these people carefully, you’ll mostly find technophiles and members of companies making online learning products.

[Disclaimer: I am the president of a company that makes an online learning product.]

They are taking the easy way out. Schools have greater needs than broadband Internet access. Eventually they’ll all have it as the broadband wave sweeps our nation. (I’m writing in the U.S.)  However, has anyone really assessed the necessity for really high bandwidth, 1 Gbps and above? If so, I haven’t seen it.

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Consider what’s really important for schools to have. Number one is good teachers. Broadband has nothing to do with that. Number two is good leader/administrators. Again, no broadband here. Somewhere well down the list is new technology. But, what technology?

To know what the requirements will be, we must have a good crystal ball. We don’t have that so think about what’s available today rather than attempt to predict the future. You can find plenty of interesting online learning options. What are their bandwidth requirements? Leave out non-learning options such as students downloading the latest horror flick or porn movie. Consider only the requirements for learning software.

How many students at one time will be using the Internet for learning? Maybe half. What fraction of the time on the Internet actually involves downloading media? Media are the major bandwidth users. Now, average out the bandwidth for everyone. You’ll probably get a smaller number than you thought you would. 

Yet, this analysis is insufficient. Even if you have the Internet bandwidth, you must get from the WAN to the school’s LAN and to the student. That’s school infrastructure. Schools must have decent servers and wired, not wireless, connections to every classroom. Each classroom must have a high-speed wireless router that can handle up to 40 computers or whatever that classroom is designed for. Many schools think they have great Internet access but fall short on the infrastructure.

Learning software from the Internet more and more uses high-definition images and videos that require substantial bandwidth to deliver quickly without loss of quality. Students in a classroom will become difficult if the delays are more than a couple of seconds. These are reasons often cited for requiring high bandwidth broadband access for schools.

How about a different approach. Put those bandwidth-intensive media on the school’s server, either by licensing them from vendors or by caching them for reuse. If these files are available locally, then the Internet (wide-area network) speeds can be much lower. The internal (local-area network) speeds must be quite high, but that is true even without local storage.

With this simple change to using the Internet, schools make a small additional investment in servers and save lots of money on Internet bandwidth. They still must have highly reliable connections, just not at such high bandwidth and cost.

So, when you hear someone asking for broadband for schools, ask what they mean by broadband. If it’s reliability and a rational amount of bandwidth, that’s fine. Many schools lack even that and definitely should have it. If it’s huge bandwidth in the gigabits per second range, then tell them that you can find better ways to spend budget dollars.

1 Jessica Rosenworcel and Mark Edwards, “Giving Our Kids a Chance to Compete in the Global Economy Means High-Speed Broadband Capacity,” Huff Post, 24 July 2013. “Fact Sheet: Update of E-Rate for Broadband in Schools and Libraries,” FCC, 19 July 2013. Paul Barbagallo, “FCC Begins Writing Rules to Bring Ultrafast Broadband to Most Schools in Five Years,” Bloomberg BNA, 22 July 2013. “Examining School and Library Broadband Connectivity: A Connected Nation Policy Brief,” Connected Nation, 19 July 2013. “AT&T Helps Schools Meet Bandwidth Surge From Common Core State Standards,” CBS Detroit, 16 July 2013.

32 Responses

  1. […] By Harry Keller Editor, Science Education A great many people are agitating for broadband in schools.1 They insist that our young people will not be prepared for the future without it. If you look …  […]

  2. This is an arrogant and unthinking post from someone who has not done his homework. I will do it for you. Minority and urban and rural schools are compromised by the lack of infrastructure as well as the lack of well trained teachers, even the TFA teachers thrown at those communities only get 5 weeks of education training and that includes your science.
    Common Core requires robust broadband for assessment.

    Communities that are economically viable don’t need e-rate. If Harry’ comments reflect all of the people on this journal editorial board let me know and I will quit but not before I post some information to enlighten those who are not reading , and understanding. When President Clinton’s initiative was passed, the E-rate, it was passed with the concept that broadband would be deployed over the whole country. That has not been done. In fact in rural Virginia there is a lack of affordable broadband. I work in those areas which I call prison pipelines because the children are not connected to transformational education, to be ready for the workforce.

    • The Common Core requires broadband. Teachers , especially the “Bad assed Teachers group share this view.. but they won’t stop CC

      • The statement that “Common Core requires broadband” leaves out the definition of broadband. What exactly is that? Does it focus on reliability or speed? What percentage of up time? What speed? What speed guarantee? A school of 5,000 students can work just fine with 100 Mbps without anything special. It can use 1/10 of that with intelligent infrastructure.

        However, if non-educational uses take up a substantial portion of the bandwidth, as I have seen happen, then you have a problem, and e-rate money is being misused.

    • When slaves were freed,education was denied to them, they were not given schooling . Minorities and immigrants are in the schools of need. Do we want education for them. Probably not. if we have an underclass those who have been in power will stay in power.

      I am a teacher, still learning, I do work with people who understand broadband. Here is my reference and last comment. If you don’t agree. I am sorry.

      • This is not about the 1860s or the 1960s. It’s about education quality not being dependent on zip codes. It’s also about critical thinking.

        I am not a fan of “magic” terms being bandied about just because their the flavor of the month. Broadband has meant many things to many people over time.

        I am also not a fan of exaggeration for political impact. Every school should have an adequate and reliable Internet connection that is not co-opted by administrators. They can schedule their data transfers for the night. This issue is not whether but how much.

    • Hi, Bonnie. I think you’re misreading Harry’s point. His recommendations re internal and external bandwidth speed requirements are within the latest SETDA and Obama’s figures. He’s not arguing against Broadband for all schools. He is, however, questioning the need for what he considers excessive speed, which translates to greater cost. Also, he’s suggeting that the potential savings be invested in improving teacher quality and non-tech infrastructure upgrades. He doesn’t stop there. He also suggests strategies for getting around bottlenecks created by downloading demands.

      His points are thoughtful and well researched — as usual. However, I don’t agree with not just Harry’s direction but the general direction for broadband infrastructure upgrades. It simply doesn’t go far enough. Instead of focusing only on schools, I believe it ought to fous on students. The guarantee from the nation ought to be for broadband access for every student not only in school but out of school, too, so s/he can access the internet 24/7, i.e., anywhere-anytime — not just in schools.

    • The first priority for schools should be reliable high-speed Internet. The primary emphasis should be on reliability. Doesn’t matter how fast it is if it’s down. I favor an equivalent of rural electrification for the Internet for all areas of the country that are suffering from information deficit due to lack of access — both rural and urban, both home and school.

      I do not favor dumping lots of money into the wallets of the big ISPs and then having all of that bandwidth wasted due to decrepit school infrastructure. After a reliable connection for schools, the next priority is internal. If done well, this internal infrastructure will reduce the external (WAN) speed requirements, save the schools annual subscription costs, and put less money into the pockets of those who already have too much.

      I am sure that any school with inadequate Internet can find other things to do with its money than add unused bandwidth to its Internet connection. Why not allow schools to use the money to wire every classroom with Gigabit Ethernet? Why not use the e-rate money to subsidize a high-speed router in every classroom?

      Schools have two bottlenecks, WAN and LAN. Unblocking WAN when LAN remains a bottleneck won’t help anyone. Intelligent creation of the school infrastructure will save money and improve student experience.

  3. E-Rate Needs Overhaul for Digital Era, Experts Argue
    By Alyson Klein

    As school districts strive to put more technology into schools to support 1-to-1 computing initiatives and prepare for the common-core online assessments, the federal E-rate program is in danger of becoming as outdated and insufficient as a sputtering dial-up connection in a Wi-Fi world.

    While the program can boast great success since its inception—just 14 percent of schools were connected to the Internet when the E-rate was launched in 1996, compared with near-universal access today—it is now at risk of buckling under the weight of districts’ technological demands in the age of laptops, tablets, smartphones, and 24/7 online activity.

    The strains are likely to get even more acute as most states prepare to give assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Those tests, slated to debut in 2014-15, will require hefty connectivity capabilities. Recent technical difficulties with online testing in some states highlight the need for better, more reliable technologies in schools. (See “Online Testing Suffers Setbacks in Multiple States,…


  4. You probably have no idea how hard it was to get just E-rate. It would be great if the Google way of wiring everything was to happen. But it won’t. We have been waiting for ten years just to get regular internet to some schools. There are a few schools still in Indian country that don’t have electric connections. There are plenty of wi fi types of connectivity in the prison systems in southern Va where my friend works and she has to use three phones as she moves from county to county. That is not BYOD that is BYa pain in the pocketbook.

    FCC went to some rural areas and learned… but the public has to support and understand. So it may be a good thing that this dialogue starts. Perhaps we could engage people in understanding why we don’t want to connect for today.. why we must change.. but the public is not engaged in the discussion.

    It is fun to be at the CS for High Schools Computer Camp. We share, we learn we are concerned , and this is a very diverse camp . But how to engage the public , and others in understanding the concerns about the prison pipeline. One percent of African Americans are PHD’s in Computer Science. Even a smaller amount from Native Americans. Latino populations are poor too. If we are going to be a minority majority population we can’t have a Honey Boo boo, dummy culture.
    We celebrate all things in athletics.. and people pay through the nose for those tickets, built magnificent stadiums, and wear the logos…
    How do we capture that passion for education? I don’t want to die with the people of my culture being even further behind than we were during abject segregation.

  5. Sorry my ignorance.
    Do youu mean we need broder bandwidth for education in K12 as well as HE.
    We are so impatient to wait in front of the screen.
    Sure we want faster technology.


    The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-0 today to release a plan for overhauling the E-rate program for public review, an initial step in what many education advocates hope will produce sweeping upgrades to the technological speed and capabilities of the nation’s schools. Click here to read the article.

  7. I’ve been in these schools, both rural and urban. It’s depressing at best and sickening at worst to see young people and dedicated teachers subjected to such abuses.

    Let’s note before starting that people were getting GREAT educations before there was an Internet. The Internet has existed for fewer than 30 years and been widespread only since around the late 1990s.

    Suddenly, if you don’t have it, you’re deprived. As an Internet entrepreneur in ed-tech, I’d love to see every school with good, reliable Internet access. I’d love more, as a parent, grandparent, and citizen, to see every school with great teachers. I’d also like our children in schools that aren’t ready to be condemned. I’d like them to have excellent after-school programs everywhere that they have value. School should not end at 3pm. I’d like our schools at least to have minimal lab facilities that are safe.

    The inner cities may be bad, and I’ve seen them. The wide open spaces of central Pennsylvania or parts of the West have situations that some may call quaint but are very difficult. It’s like the little red schoolhouse but falling down. (I exaggerate slightly for effect.)

    Some sort of WAN for all schools will NOT solve our education problems. It won’t even make a dent. Every school should have reliable and adequate WAN just because that’s fair and we’re a nation that’s supposed to believe in fairness. We must have more, lots more before schools are fair. Don’t get caught up in single-issue politics here. It’s too important.

    I simply point out that super speeds are not necessary for good education for all. Those who provide Internet-delivered education solutions should take note and provide tools that don’t require huge bandwidth. They do that just because it’s the easy way out. Then, they can blame the schools for not having sufficient bandwidth if their solution doesn’t work well. It’s cheaper to create. It’s less costly to maintain. It takes less technology. Don’t let corporations dictate to you.

    I could go on like this for a while. I just don’t deal well with foolishness. Please everyone. Think with your minds instead of your emotions. It’s about finding solutions, not about ranting or complaining.

    • Your expertise is not resident in most learning communities. Those of us who did have an inferior education , feel it, know it and do feel that the transformation of education with effective technology use should be for all.

      • Expertise can be purchased at less cost than gigabit Internet. It’s necessary in any event to ensure good school infrastructure. There’s no sense to putting a Ferrari engine in a riding lawn mower.

        The expertise must precede the other aspects. It’s not enough to ask for Omaha steaks when you have no way to cook them. Super high-speed broadband may have no impact on an unprepared school. You cannot simply wave your hand and say you don’t have expertise.

        I’ll say again that the first priority of Internet connection is reliability, which goes with always-on style of connection, which used to be called “broadband.” My issue is with the demand for ever higher bandwidth without thinking the whole thing through. Low performance could be caused by internal infrastructure. You should not throw more money at bandwidth without first addressing the internal issues.

        Every single school in our country should have a reliable Internet connection that is “always on.” Many do not. That is a national shame. That is not the issue that I’ve been addressing.

        If expertise is required for some schools, that expertise should be provided. It will be repetitive and so should not be expensive.

  8. Technology THE WHOLE picture
    White House Perspective

    “We have to do everything we can to encourage the entrepreneurial spirit, wherever we find it. We should be helping American companies compete and sell their products all over the world. We should be making it easier and faster to turn new ideas into new jobs and new businesses. And we should knock down any barriers that stand in the way. Because if we’re going to create jobs now and in the future, we’re going to have to out-build and out-educate and out-innovate every other country on Earth.”

    Guiding Principles
    President Obama recognizes that technology is an essential ingredient of economic growth and job creation. Ensuring America has 21st century digital infrastructure—such as high-speed broadband Internet access, fourth-generation (4G) wireless networks, new health care information technology and a modernized electrical grid—is critical to our long-term prosperity and competitiveness.

    The President is committed to ensuring America has a thriving and growing Internet economy. The Internet has become a global platform for communication, commerce and individual expression, and now promises to support breakthroughs in important national priorities such as health care, education and energy. Additionally, the Internet and information technology can be applied to make government more effective, transparent and accessible to all Americans.

    Examples of Progress
    Cybersecurity and Internet Policy
    A Modernized Patent System
    Bringing Technology from “Lab to Market”
    21st Century Digital Infrastructure
    Creating an Open and Accountable Government
    Learning Technologies
    Advanced Manufacturing
    Federal Chief Information Officers
    Open Data Initiatives
    Presidential Innovation Fellows
    First U.S. Chief Technology Officer
    Cybersecurity and Internet Policy
    President Obama has pledged to preserve the free and open nature of the Internet to encourage innovation, protect consumer choice, and defend free speech. The Administration has created an Internet Policy Task Force to bring together industry, consumer groups, and policy experts to identify ways of ensuring that the Internet remains a reliable and trustworthy resource for consumers and businesses.

    In July 2011, at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Obama Administration joined with representatives from business, civil society, and Internet technical communities from 34 countries to reaffirm the importance of Internet policy principles that have enabled the open Internet to flourish with innovation and human connections beyond our wildest expectations.

    Americans deserve an Internet that is safe and secure, so they can shop, bank, communicate, and learn online without fear their accounts will be hacked or their identity stolen. President Obama has declared that the “cyber threat is one of the most serious economic and national security challenges we face as a nation” and that “America’s economic prosperity in the 21st century will depend on cybersecurity.” To help the country meet this challenge and to ensure the Internet can continue as an engine of growth and prosperity, the Administration is implementing the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace. The Administration also released the International Strategy for Cyberspace to promote the free flow of information, the security and privacy of data, and the integrity of the interconnected networks, which are all essential to American and global economic prosperity and security.

    President Obama has responded to Congress’ call for input on the cybersecurity legislation that our Nation needs, and the Administration will continue to engage with Congress as it moves forward.

    The Obama Administration has also prioritized the cybersecurity of federal departments and agencies. In addition, the Administration has matured the government’s implementation of the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) away from a static, paper-based process to a dynamic, relevant process based upon continuous monitoring and risk assessment.

    A Modernized Patent System
    President Obama signed the America Invents Act into law on September 16, 2011 after nearly a decade of effort to reform the Nation’s outdated patent laws. The patent reform law helps companies and inventors avoid costly delays and unnecessary litigation—letting them focus instead on innovation and job creation. Many key industries in which the United States leads, such as biotechnology, medical devices, telecommunications, the Internet, and advanced manufacturing, depend on a strong and healthy intellectual property system.

    The law has a number of transformative initiatives that build on reforms already underway under the leadership of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Director David Kappos. The law gives the USPTO the resources to reduce patent application waiting times significantly, and builds on the great strides the patent office has already made, reducing its backlog by 15% during this Administration even as the number of filings per year has increased. The USPTO has also launched an accelerated examination program, known as Track One, that allows patent applications to be processed to completion in 12 months and offers small businesses a 50 percent discount on this option.

    Under Track One, the USPTO has offered 3,502 companies, and over 1,278 small businesses the opportunity to move their technologies to the marketplace faster—accelerating the creation of new jobs and new industries. In the only 7 months since the program has started, we’ve issued a total of 101 completed patents through the program, with applicants waiting only about an average 117.3 days to receive a complete decision on their application. The program builds on the Green Technology Pilot program that accelerated 3,500 patent applications involving reduced greenhouse gas emissions and energy conservation — at no cost to the inventor. USPTO has also recently launched the Patents for Humanity pilot program, which creates business incentives for patent holders to engage in humanitarian issues.

    Excessive litigation has also long plagued the patent system. The America Invents Act offers entrepreneurs new ways to avoid litigation regarding patent validity, without the expense of going to U.S. District Court, and will also give the USPTO new tools and resources to improve patent quality. In addition to these new tools, the USPTO is also hiring 100 new judges to adjudicate cases in front of the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences, helping to decrease the backlog of patent appeals cases, and reduce wait times for appellants. The new law also will harmonize the American patent process with the rest of the world to make it more efficient and predictable, and make it easier for entrepreneurs to market products simultaneously in the United States and for exporting abroad.

    Bringing Technology from “Lab to Market”
    Leading up to the President’s signing of the America Invents Act, the Administration worked with Federal agencies and private-sector partners to launch a series of new “Lab to Market” initiatives. The initiatives are aimed at helping to achieve the President’s goal of strengthening “commercialization of the nearly $148 billion in annual federally-funded research and development”, as first proposed in January 2011 at the launch of the White House-led Startup America campaign. These efforts encouraged Federal agencies to streamline their technology-transfer procedures, support additional government-industry collaboration, and encourage the commercialization of novel technologies flowing from our Federal laboratories.

    21st Century Digital Infrastructure
    Wireless Infrastructure: President Obama has committed to making high-speed wireless services available to at least 98 percent of Americans. The availability of new wireless broadband services will allow more Americans to use the Internet to learn, work and play—regardless of where they live. At the direction of the President, Federal agencies will make more airwaves available (in scientific terms, some 500 Mhz of spectrum) for enhanced smartphones and other wireless services within 10 years. The President also proposed and signed into law a plan for the design and deployment of a nationwide wireless public safety network so that our first responders can share data and work together seamlessly across jurisdictions in response to natural or man-made emergencies. And through the auctioning of airwave space to companies that will develop the next generation of wireless services, funding will be available to support advances in security, reliability, and other critical features by investing in research and development in wireless technology, while also delivering an estimated $10 billion for deficit reduction.

    Broadband: High-speed internet infrastructure is key to a 21st century information economy. Through $7 billion in targeted investments from the Recovery Act, the Administration has expanded broadband access nationwide, improved high-speed connectivity in rural areas and public computer centers, and increased Internet capacity in schools, libraries, public safety offices, and other community buildings.

    A Smarter Power Grid: A 21st century electric system is essential to America’s ability to lead the world and create jobs in the clean-energy economy of the future. As part of the Recovery Act, this Administration invested $4.5 billion in electricity delivery and energy reliability modernization, with total public-private investment amounting to over $10 billion To ensure that all Americans benefit from these smart grid investments, the Administration released a policy framework and a series of new initiatives in June 2011 that will empower consumers with tools to better manage their electricity and cut costs, improve the reliability of the electric grid, and help utilities recover from natural disasters faster. A first generation of innovative consumer products and services—such as thermostats that can be controlled from a smart phone, or websites that show how much energy a house is using—are already helping Americans save money on their electricity bills.

    Creating an Open and Accountable Government
    Government is more accountable when it is transparent. That’s why President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government on his first full day in office, ushering in a new era of open and accountable government to bridge the gap between the American people and their government. The Administration has taken unprecedented steps to make government more efficient and effective, including the following actions:

    Launched in May 2009, has increased access to information that the public can readily find and use. The purpose of and communities is to increase public access to data and information generated by departments and agencies in the Federal government. For example, you can find monthly data on U.S. oil refinery utilization and capacity back to 1985 or value of mineral production by state. With more than 385,000 such datasets currently online, and more coming all the time, the Administration is continuing to create a more participatory government by expanding access and encouraging creative ways for data to be used.
    Through the U.S.-India Open Government Dialogue, the two countries have partnered to release “,” an open source version of the United States’ “” data portal and India’s “” document portal. It will be available for implementation by countries globally, encouraging governments around the world to stand up open data sites that promote transparency, improve citizen engagement, and engage application developers in continuously improving these efforts.
    The Administration has increased tracking of how government uses Federal dollars with easy-to-understand websites like,, and the IT Dashboard.
    The Administration is spurring innovation by using challenges and prizes to motivate greater citizen participation in the quest to meet national challenges. In September 2010, the Administration launched, a one-stop shop where entrepreneurs and citizen solvers can find public-sector prizes. Prizes are a great way to inspire a wide range of potential problem solvers to take aim at problems through innovation. Unlike the case with many conventional grants, the method for achieving success is not narrowly defined and the government pays only for results. For example, the Department of Defense sponsored a challenge aimed at stopping uncooperative fleeing vehicles without causing permanent damage to the vehicle or its occupants, and got a winning solution from someone who might otherwise never have appeared on that department’s grant-making radar.
    In June 2011 President Obama issued an executive order to cut waste, streamline Government operations, and reinforce the performance and management reform gains the Obama Administration has achieved.
    In July 2011 the Obama Administration announced the launch of the Government Accountability and Transparency Board. The Board, first announced by the President and Vice President in June as part of the Campaign to Cut Waste, will focus on rooting out misspent tax dollars and making government spending more accessible and transparent for the American people.
    The National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) Task Force on Smart Disclosure is working to promote better disclosure policies and aid in the timely release of complex information in standardized, machine-readable formats that enable consumers to make informed decisions in numerous domains.
    The White House launched We the People, a new platform that gives all Americans a way to create and sign petitions on a range of issues affecting our nation. And if a petition gathers enough online signatures, it will be reviewed by policy experts and you’ll receive an official response.
    In September 2011, President Obama and President Rousseff of Brazil hosted the formal launch of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) at an event with Heads of State and senior officials from 46 countries. This meeting focused attention on the shared challenge of improving governance, and demonstrated a strong political commitment around the world to the kinds of reforms necessary to enhance transparency, fight corruption, and strengthen mechanisms of democratic accountability.
    Learning Technologies
    Technology can be a powerful tool when it comes to teaching and learning. To help realize its potential, in September 2011 the Department of Education and private foundations launched Digital Promise, a new national center for advancing learning technologies. Digital Promise will harness the efforts of everyone from educators to entrepreneurs to spur the research, development, and adoption of breakthrough technologies that can help transform the way teachers teach and students learn. Learn more here.

    Advanced Manufacturing
    In June, 2011, President Obama launched the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP), a national effort that brings together industry, universities, and the Federal government to invest in the emerging technologies that will create high-quality manufacturing jobs and enhance our global competitiveness. To launch the AMP, the President announced $300 million of government-wide investment in domestic manufacturing capabilities, $100 million in research and training investments to develop and deploy advanced materials, $70 million in robotics research and development, and $120 million of investment in innovative energy-efficient manufacturing processes.

    The AMP is based on a recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) in its report “Ensuring Leadership in Advanced Manufacturing.” The AMP is led by Andrew Liveris, Chairman, President, and CEO of Dow Chemical, and Susan Hockfield, President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

    For more information: President Obama Launches Advanced Manufacturing Partnership

    Manufacturing Innovation

    On August 16, 2012 in Youngstown, OH, National Economic Advisor Sperling, Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank and Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall announced the establishment of an additive manufacturing pilot institute by a consortium that includes more than 40 firms, five research universities, and seven community colleges, led by the National Center for Defense Manufacturing and Machining. The pilot institute, which the President announced in his speech at Petersburg, VA on March 9, 2012, will serve as a proof of concept for the proposed National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, currently under Congressional consideration. Up to fifteen Institutes for Manufacturing Innovation are proposed for development in the network. These institutes will serve as regional hubs of manufacturing excellence that will help make U.S. manufacturers more competitive and encourage investment in the United States.

    President Obama’s National Robotics Initiative is part of a broader effort to promote a renaissance of American manufacturing through the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership.

    This initiative focuses on developing robots that work with or beside people to extend or augment human capabilities, taking advantage of the different strengths of humans and robots. In addition to investing in the core technology needed for next-generation robotics, the initiative will support applications such as robots that can:

    Increase the productivity of workers in the manufacturing sector;
    Assist astronauts in dangerous and expensive missions;
    Help scientists accelerate the discovery of new, life-saving drugs; and
    Improve food safety by rapidly sensing microbial contamination.
    As part of this initiative, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, and the Department of Agriculture are funding $70 million of research for next-generation robotics.

    For more information: Developing the Next Generation of Robots

    Federal Chief Information Officers
    In this 21st century Information Age, virtually all big businesses find it essential to have a Chief Information Officer (CIO)—someone who specializes in making sure that information is flowing smoothly within the business’s various components and also between the business and its customers and suppliers. Early in his Administration, President Obama made the important recognition that government, too, could benefit from having a CIO, and he appointed the first in the Federal government’s history. (A number of departments and agencies have since appointed CIOs as well.) One of the bigger responsibilities for the Federal CIO has been to find new efficiencies relating to the many information technology projects going on in the government—projects that stand to save taxpayers dollars and make government services more efficient, but which need to be coordinated with one another to achieve these goals.

    Toward that end, on December 2010, the Administration released a 25-Point Implementation Plan to reform the way the Federal government manages information technology projects. Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew followed up on that Plan in August by issuing a CIO Authorities Memo, which spells out in detail how the CIOs in various departments and agencies should go beyond mere management of information technology projects and focus in addition on making sure they get the highest return on investments in information technology; being transparent and accountable for the status of projects on Federal websites such as the IT Dashboard; and ensuring the security of electronic information.

    Part of being efficient involves shutting down projects that are no longer performing, and one responsibility of the Federal CIO and his office has been to use so-called TechStat sessions to look into such projects and figure out how to either fix them or terminate them. The Administration has said it intends to terminate or turn around at least one-third of all underperforming information technology projects by June 2012. The Federal CIO is also working to consolidate Federal data centers and move more and more information from individual computers and physical data centers to “the digital cloud”— part of a cloud-first strategy that promises big gains in efficiency. Finally, CIOs must ensure we are continuously improving our efforts to safeguard Federal data through cybersecurity.

    The Federal Chief Information Officer, Steven VanRoekel, highlighted the ways in which he envisions his office fulfilling these goals and is using to share our progress effectively managing large-scale IT projects, achieving operational efficiencies, and improving cybersecurity with the American people.

    For more information on the Obama Administration’s technology priorities, check out the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy website.

    Open Data Initiatives
    Under the leadership of the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, the Administration is pursuing initiatives that seek to “liberate” government data and voluntarily-contributed corporate data as fuel to spur entrepreneurship, create value, and create jobs. As a model, decades ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began making weather data available for free electronic download by anyone. Entrepreneurs utilized these data to create weather newscasts, websites, mobile applications, insurance, and much more—generating billions of dollars in annual economic value. Similarly, the government’s decision to make the Global Positioning System (GPS) freely available has fueled a vast array of private-sector innovations ranging from navigation systems to precision crop farming, creating huge public benefit and tens of billions of dollars of economic value annually.

    We believe there is enormous potential to replicate and expand upon these successes in targeted areas of high impact. Think of vast reservoirs of data, sitting in the vaults of government and industry, as a still largely underutilized national resource that can be injected into the economy—fueling a rising tide of entrepreneurial innovation that can improve Americans’ lives in many tangible ways, advance key national priorities in sectors ranging from health to energy to education and more, and contribute significantly to economic growth and job creation.

    Building upon what we have learned in executing the highly successful Health Data Initiative over the last two years, we have now launched similar open-data initiatives in the energy, education, and public safety sectors, with additional initiatives in the works.

    Presidential Innovation Fellows
    In August 2012, U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park and U.S. Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel launched the first class of Presidential Innovation Fellows. Selected from a nationwide applicant pool of nearly 700 innovators, the 18 Fellows have agreed to spend six months in Washington to work on five high-impact projects aimed at supporting entrepreneurs, small businesses and the economy, while significantly improving how the Federal Government serves the American people.

    The five projects were selected because they are tough but tractable challenges whose solutions could provide immediate benefits and cost-savings to American citizens, entrepreneurs and businesses:

    The Open Data Initiatives – inspired by the massive private sector innovation catalyzed by the release of government weather and GPS data – will accelerate and expand Administration efforts to make government data more publicly accessible in “computer-readable” form and spur the use of those data by entrepreneurs as fuel for the creation of new products, services, and jobs.
    RFP-EZ aims to develop an online marketplace that will make it easier for the government to do business with small high-growth tech companies, and enabling the government to buy better, lower-cost tech solutions from the full range of American businesses.
    MyGov will create a prototype of a streamlined online system enabling citizens to easily access the information and services from across the Federal Government.
    The 20% Initiative will work to transition “the last mile” of international development assistance payments from cash to electronic methods – lowering administrative costs, promoting financial inclusion, and reducing theft, fraud, and violence.
    Blue Button for America will spread the ability for millions of Americans to easily and securely download their own health information electronically, all while fueling the emergence of time and money saving products and businesses.
    The first class of 18 Presidential Innovation Fellows were chosen on the basis of individuals’ skill sets and their relevance to the chosen challenges. In addition to the Fellows, the broader public is invited to sign up to follow and contribute to the success of these projects. The Presidential Innovation Fellows program’s focus is collaborative problem solving by cross-sector teams of innovators who can rapidly prototype and test solutions in an iterative way until success is achieved.

    First U.S. Chief Technology Officer
    President Obama created the position of U.S. Chief Technology Officer on his first day in office, noting that corporate leaders have long recognized the value of having a person responsible for ensuring that technology is being used as effectively as possible to advance key objectives. The U.S. CTO is responsible for ensuring and advancing the use of innovative technological approaches to support Administration priorities, including job creation, broader access to affordable health care, enhanced energy efficiency, a more open government, and national and homeland security.

    Current U.S. CTO Todd Park is leading an array of efforts, including the Open Data Initiatives and Presidential Innovation Fellows programs, that aim to help modernize a Federal government relying too heavily on 20th century technology, and better leverage the power of technology and data to help address a wide range of national challenges. These initiatives employ an agile, “lean startup”-style approach to effecting change in government, and embrace the idea of collaboration with innovators across the public, private, nonprofit, and academic sectors to deliver the best possible results for the American people.

  9. This post unwittingly reinforces bandwidth (and hence knowledge) rationing as a normal business model, where schools must pay premiums for speed. The author goes further, advocating money and resources to be spent elsewhere, as if a zero sum game.

    Rationing knowledge is not normal. Redirecting resources is a false choice.

    How can we forget so quickly that it took FDR’s Presidential action to bring electricity to rural America when Private enterprise failed to do so?

    No one would ask a school to ration water. No one would ask a school to ration electricity. These are key utilities, where every school building is built with enough to satisfy whatever is needed to get the job done.

    Just like water and electricity, every community in America with a school deserves to have the bandwidth needed to get the job done. Just like water. Just like power.

    Advances in technology coupled with lower equipment costs have made it economical to implement advanced networks throughout small cities. Moreover, the return on value for high speed telecommunication is proven to correlate to local and national GDP.

    Municipal networking, a network owned by their community, is the best way to bring needed resources to the schools. Therefore, many cities in America are fighting incumbent ISPs, such as Comcast, CenturyLink and Time-Warner to install their own Municipal Fiber Networks (not Google Fiber, that’s just another ISP). These companies fight back at the state level, lobbying for laws to take away the rights of small communities to build their own network utility.

    Rationing is not the right model for communities, and it is a deeply false choice to spread the idea to “spend the money elsewhere first.” But why? What’s the urgency to deploy high speed networking for schools right now?

    High speed wide area networking is unlike any other communication system. It is unparalleled in its ability to be a force multiplier for education by connecting interest groups and sub-groups.

    Higher speeds provides a portion of the exponential benefit, intrinsic to large cities, to gather together mentors and students with like interests.

    Higher speeds lets us interact as humans. We deeply react as individuals to face-to-face mentoring and human conversation. We revel and rejoice in the interaction with massive networks of other humans, in unimagined dreamscapes of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) and “gamified” situations.

    Further, higher speeds means more students can use more high capacity resources more of the time. An online lecture is all but useless if only 10 students out of 1,000 can use it at a time before the network clogs.

    Widespread access to massive data sets with no waiting shows us what is real, not what is imagined. With higher speeds, we may become conditioned to seek, instead of being conditioned for apathy.

    In 2010 Ericsson and Arthur D. Little concluded that for every 10 percentage point increase in broadband penetration GDP increases by 1 percent. We all benefit.

    But all this high speed takes time to build.

    And there’s the rub.

    Building infrastructures take time, lots of time, to implement across entire communities. And that is exactly why it is long past time to push, and push hard to bring high bandwidth to schools, for example through High Speed Municipal networks.

    Waiting to build high speed networks to schools plays right into the hands of economic extractors, not the other way around.

    The right conversation is how to move away from extractive rationing models to community owned, high-speed networks. The right conversation is how to serve our students today and for the future.

    “Information is the new Utility.” Look at these communities and many others today:

    Chattanooga, TN
    Lafayette, LA
    Wilson, NC
    Cedar Falls, IA
    Longmont, CO

    These communities and many more are in the forefront. Having implemented Municipal Fiber networks, they are now literally free to install anything needed to the schools. These cities are not only bringing gigabit networks to the schools, they are bringing it to every home in their community. Now. Today.

    That’s exactly as it should be for all of us.

  10. This strikes me as short sited and, frankly, a bit selfish. I have to ask the author: Is your educational learning company feeling like it’s competing for limited education spend dollars with broadband access?

    Could this be nothing more than a self serving attack on a competitor for limited education budgets on your part? I personally believe it is.

    Aug 26, 2013, 12:11pm PDT
    Disconnected America: 1 in 3 adults don’t have broadband access

    Pew Internet & American Life Project
    A new Pew survey shows that 70 percent of American adults have broadband access at home. Three percent still use a dial-up connection

    Preeti Upadhyaya, Technology Reporter, Silicon Valley Business Journal
    It’s easy to forget in uber-connected areas such as Silicon Valley or the Puget Sound region, but not every American sports two smartphones, a tablet, a laptop and two wireless routers.

    In fact, a new study from the Pew Research Center revealed one out of every three American adults don’t have a high-speed broadband connection at home as of May 2013.

    As of May, 70 percent of American adults have high-speed internet access at home. A year ago, 66 percent of adults polled said they had broadband access.

    The study, which polled 2,252 adults age 18 and older between mid-April and mid-May 2013, also asked about smartphone and dial-up usage.

    According to Pew, 46 percent of Americans have both a smartphone and broadband access at home. 24 percent have just broadband connection, and 10 percent have a smartphone but no broadband.

    The remaining 20 percent of Americans have access to neither a smartphone nor a home broadband connection.

    Pew’s study also showed that 3 percent of Americans still log onto the web using a dial-up connection.

    “We’ve consistently found that age, education and household income are among the strongest factors associated with home broadband adoption,” said Kathryn Zickuhr, research associate for the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project and lead author of the report. “Many dial-up users cite cost and access as the main reasons they don’t have broadband, but for adults who don’t use the internet at all, a lack of interest is often the main issue.”

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