Posted on Wednesday, November 02, 2016 in Broadband InternetBlog written by Rob Swenson
Nearly every school and public library in the United States is connected to the Internet. The technological challenge in education today is getting enough broadband to effectively move increasing volumes of electronic information.
Improving wireless connectivity is also a challenge.
Financial help is available through the Federal Communications Commission’s Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries, or E-Rate Program. The program, which has been around for nearly 20 years, was amended twice in 2014 to be more responsive to today’s educational environment.
The importance of Wi-Fi connectivity has grown in importance in educational facilities because today students and other learners often connect to the Internet with mobile devices rather than at computer workstations.
Eric Erickson is among the account executives at SDN who have worked with education officials in the region to improve technology services in institutions.
“I think it’s in the public interest for communities to have access to every resource they can,” he says.
Overall, K-12 schools in South Dakota appear to be taking good advantage of subsidies available through the E-Rate Program, but public libraries seem to under-use the assistance, Erickson says. That might be a reflection of program awareness. The limited staffing in many small libraries is probably a significant factor, too.
Data from the South Dakota Department of Education indicates that 138 of the state’s approximately 150 school districts participated in the E-Rate program in 2015. Participants in 2015 included 32 schools, 10 libraries and four consortiums. Participation numbers have been similar for the past few years.
“The E-Rate Program has been going through changes in the last couple of years to make it more efficient and available. As the program grows, our concern is that the rural areas are less of a focus, and we continue to advocate for the schools and libraries in South Dakota,” said Mary Stadick Smith, director of operations and information for the Education Department.
“Schools and libraries have been able to obtain funding for internal connections equipment for the first time in many years to ensure they have adequate Wi-Fi access,” she said.
The Yankton School District is among the educational systems in South Dakota that has taken advantage of the E-Rate Program for years. The Yankton district currently interconnects six schools and an administration center.
In recent years, Yankton Schools also have more than doubled the broadband speed available to students. In addition, the District recently acquired another facility, which it intends to use to expand career and technical educational education services.
“We’re going to see if we can use E-Rate to put a fiber connection in there,” says Jason Bietz, the school system’s business manager.
The E-Rate Program has enabled the district to receive significant discounts on phone services and development of its wide area network.
“There are lot of hoops, lots of i’s to dot and t’s to cross, but in the end it’s worth the time,” Bietz says.
SDN Communications, the host of this blog, is an E-Rate-compliant vendor. For more information about the company and its services, visit the What We Do page of the website or call 800-247-1442.