WASHINGTON, July 3, 2013 – The National Telecommunications and Information Administration described the projects that are already underway that will help achieve the goals laid out in President Barack Obama’s ConnectEd program in a blog post on Monday.
Currently, 75 percent of the NTIA’s 116 network infrastructure projects are providing connections to schools. However, schools must not only be simply connected but must have access to the high amount of bandwidth needed to support video and other applications requiring high connection speeds on a large number of devices at once.
The post focuses mainly on the efforts of MCNC, a non-profit broadband provider founded in 1980 as the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina, to provide adequate internet connections for schools and other institutions.
Through funding from the NTIA, the MCNC has been able to upgrade 800 miles of existing fiber and construct an additional 1800 miles of fiber in its network. The project is also funding the construction of direct, last-mile fiber within its districts.
This work is especially important, as North Carolina ranked lowest among the states with residential fixed broadband connections with advertised download speeds of at least 3 Megabits per second (Mbps), according to the data released by the Federal Communications Commission in May of this year.
North Carolina has 668,000 connections of that speed, and 3,818,000 households, for a subscribership ratio of 17 percent. The state fares better in the ratio of connections greater than 200 Kilobits per second, according to the report.
The MCNC-established North Carolina Research and Education Network stretches across 115 school districts and serves nearly 2,500 schools. These schools, along with various other anchor institutions, receive speeds of at least 100 Mbps. These speeds have allowed the schools to grow their data usage during peak hours from one gigabit in 2009 to 35 gigabits.
The availability of these high-capacity, high-speed broadband connections has had a major impact on the education system. The blog post highlights a number of counties, such as, the Avery County public schools system, which issued each of its 2,250 students a laptop or tablet, allowing the district to phase out physical textbooks in favor of online educational resources.
In Rutherford County, schools have begun to embrace interactive, online forms of teaching by providing all middle and high school students with laptops.
Additionally, Mooresville County, where Obama initially announced the ConnectEd program, has transitioned almost all activities to electronic functions and has entirely stopped buying physical textbooks.
The ConnectEd program was announced last month. Obama set the goal of providing ultra high-speed broadband connections to 99 percent of students within the next five years.