Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Broadband and the future of learning | Computerworld

Broadband and the future of learning | Computerworld: Since learning may take place anywhere and anytime, connected learners also need broadband access outside of school. Although 70% of U.S. households now have broadband, millions of households still do not. Private-sector initiatives are helping to expand access. For example, Comcast’s Internet Essentials program offers low-income families broadband service for $9.95 a month, along with the option to purchase an Internet-ready computer for under $150 and free digital literacy training. In its first three years of operation, the program has provided affordable broadband service to more than 350,000 households.

It should be noted that Comcast and other incumbent legacy providers redline many neighborhoods, leaving them without access to modern landline Internet connectivity at any price.

There are also promising public-private partnerships to increase access. In Forsyth County, Georgia, the local school district worked with the Chamber of Commerce to create a directory of free Wi-Fi locations in the community and to provide participating businesses with signs indicating where free Wi-Fi is available. And a middle school in Manchester, Tenn., that has equipped all sixth-graders with iPads had convinced local businesses to open their Wi-Fi hotspots to students to maximize the benefits of their technology tools.

Public-private partnerships need to go far beyond Wi-Fi and help construct fiber to the premise infrastructure to make blended learning possible since it heavily relies on students having adequate access in their homes. A good example is in Utah, where an investment firm, MacQuarie Capital, is partnering with the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency (UTOPIA) to finance and complete the construction of open access fiber to the premise infrastructure.

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