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FCC will allow schools to offer local community broadband access after school hours

The is a very large digital divide in America. Estimates put the number of broadband subscribers in the U.S. at about 65% of homes nationwide. The government wants to see subscriber numbers of about 90% of households nationwide in the next decade.

The reasons for not subscribing according to Americans are due to having no PC, broadband being too expensive, or having no interest in subscribing. Many Americans in rural areas simply don’t have access to broadband. The FCC is working on a national broadband plan with the goal of outlining a roadmap for moving more Americans online in the coming years.

The FCC is looking at multiple options for funding a more robust internet infrastructure around the country including reallocating the Universal Service Fund that everyone pays on their phone bill to pay for broadband initiative. The USF has about $8 billion per year in funds collected. The
Wall Street Journal reports that the FCC has unanimously voted to allocate some of the USF funds to fund broadband installations in schools. The FCC panel also voted to allow schools to offer local communities access to their internet service after school hours. 

Allowing the schools to offer access their broadband service is a change in FCC rules, which previously had prevented schools from opening broadband access. The full details of the national broadband plan are not yet available, but the final document is due next month on March 17.

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced earlier this week that by 2020 the FCC wants at least 100 million households in the U.S. to have access to broadband speeds of at least 100Mbps. The broadband speeds available to most Americans today are about a tenth that fast.

"No one can argue that we are leading the world in broadband, or are even as close as we should be," Genachowski said during a recent speech. 

Internet providers have raised concerns that they will not be able to hit the 100Mbps speeds in the next decade. AT&T and Qwest Communications among others have come out and said they will not be able to meet the goal. Verizon already offers internet access at 100Mbps speeds in some markets, but availability is very limited.

Reuters reports that Genachowski also said that he wants to reduce the cost of the USF and allowing schools to offer access to their broadband connections will expand availability to Americans at no additional cost to the USF.

"Especially in these times of economic crisis, having broad community access to broadband is essential," he said. "We know that broadband availability and adoption are lagging, especially in rural, minority, low-income and tribal communities." He continued, "It is critical that our entire government work toward implementing a comprehensive National Broadband Plan to ensure U.S. competitiveness in the 21st century."

One major technology company, Cisco, has urged the FCC to adopt the new internet blueprint. Cisco's CEO John Chambers said, "A next generation Internet supported by accessible, affordable broadband can transform education, health care, energy, government as well as enable job creation and economic growth."

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Coming to a school near you!...
By MrBlastman on 2/19/2010 10:38:13 AM , Rating: 4
Pr0n... that's right, pr0n, all you can download. All you can watch. All you can... work out to. Beautiful wonderful pr0n in the luxury of a government provided phat pipe. This gives a whole new meaning to the term s3x ed.

While this is a neat idea, I quickly see it being abused and becoming a potential liability and a cost center for schools, schools which are already strapped for cash due to unemployment and reduced revenues from property taxes. This can only cause conflict, turmoil and problems in these facilities.

I somehow don't think they have thought this through enough yet.

RE: Coming to a school near you!...
By erple2 on 2/19/2010 11:40:48 AM , Rating: 5
Knowing someone who works in a Public Library, I can see how you might think this would be an issue. Curiously, however, being in a public space tends to self-police better than you'd think.

You'd be surprised how effective a tap on the shoulder with a Librarian saying "Do you really want to be looking at that in here?" causes people to turn beet-red, log off, and quickly leave the Library.

Since my Public Library does NOT censor any of its internet traffic (censorship is the bane of the Library's existence, BTW), there are many self-important parents that complain vehemently that there is porn is all they see at the library. When shown the actual statistics of how infrequent this "rampant problem" is (far less than 1% of all traffic that is collected for statistical purposes can be loosely classified as porn), people tend to just get angry and walk away, full of self-righteous indignation.

I would doubt that there will be issues with the school availability of broadband internet, as well.

RE: Coming to a school near you!...
By OUits on 2/19/2010 12:25:01 PM , Rating: 2
I think they call that the "panopticon" phenomenon. In other words, people's behaviour changes because of the mere possibility they can be observed. It works well for prisons, employee monitoring, and a lot of other scenarios.

By satinspiral on 2/20/2010 5:33:11 AM , Rating: 2
Panopticon...sounds like "more than meets the eye,"

By MadMan007 on 2/21/2010 8:12:57 PM , Rating: 1
I'm wacking it to your post right now and I definitely wouldn't be doing that in a public library so yeah, I believe you're right.

By weskurtz0081 on 2/19/2010 4:55:30 PM , Rating: 2
Is it able to tell what is passing through when you are downloading torrents? I kind of doubt it, and no way anyone would really be able to tell if someone is just downloading something and looking at an eBook with that running in the background.

RE: Coming to a school near you!...
By TSS on 2/19/2010 8:42:34 PM , Rating: 1
That doesn't mean they will be productive little learners.

Actually, in this day and age, providing broadband when a school has internet (but not really fast internet) is about the worst thing you can do.

I'll give my lil sister as an example. She's 16 years old, sweetest thing you ever saw, and spends about 75% of her time on the PC watching Youtube. Just watching movie after movie. Guess what broadband enables.

Personally i'm still against PC's in schools. There's nothing the school teaches they can't already learn at home if their interested in it. You study from books. Because books offer no distraction, and if something else then the book comes along your teacher says *smack*"SHADDAP AND STUDY!" which actually works in getting your attention to the book.

I remember how on my education, they where upgrading security by watching us run our software then closing those loopholes. 2 days later our programs where still running, however MS office, which we had assignments off, refused to launch. Except via our loopholes, offcourse. And this was on a System Operator education. There's just no way in hell to prevent kids on a PC from beeing distracted.

By MadMan007 on 2/21/2010 8:17:30 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with this. Computers and technology certainly have their place in education, I would say prominently in technology classes where you want to teach how to use them, and also in order to give kids access to things like word processing or what have you especially in less well off districts. But there is way too much pandering to technology for its own sake in public education as some kind of savior - people learned well enough without all the fancy technology and ironically it seems like kids are learning worse these days with it rather than better.

RE: Coming to a school near you!...
By popopo on 2/23/2010 9:59:35 AM , Rating: 1
Thanksgiving gifts... and Christmas gifts..

By AWeav09 on 2/19/2010 1:50:27 PM , Rating: 2
Don't public libraries already offer public broadband access? I know they do where I live, and yet whenever I walk into my local library branch I never see more than one computer occupied out of the six they have available. Also, if the FCC wants more people to sign up for broadband in their homes, isn't it counterproductive for them to offer more public access?

How about this: instead of throwing away USF money on a service the vast majority of the public won't use, why doesn't the FCC just let the phone companies keep that money so they can offer us consumers lower rates?

RE: Waste?
By xmichaelx on 2/19/2010 3:27:54 PM , Rating: 2
whenever I walk into my local library branch I never see more than one computer occupied out of the six they have available.

Don't know where you live, but in most cities, computer use in libraries is through the roof and the libraries can't afford enough computers to meet demand. This is true of the libraries in Las Vegas, Seattle, New Orleans, and D.C. that I've visited, and is in fact a major issue in librarianship.

Take a look at the State of Technology and Funding in U.S. Public Libraries in 2009 ( 80% of libraries do not have the computers they need to serve demand.

IOW, don't think that your experience at your local library are indicative of the entire universe.

RE: Waste?
By rudy on 2/20/2010 10:20:16 PM , Rating: 2
Libraries should be removed from funding all together IMO. The main purpose they served is losing its place in society. What is left of them should be merged into local high schools to save money. Tell them to stop wasting money on libraries and start spending on that money to scan books and make everything an e-book that can be viewed on any electronic device be that e-book reader, phone or computer. Any money now spent on libraries is flushing it down the toilet and making a stupid decision with no thought of what the future will be like.

As for demand if that is the case then internet shops should be thriving. Also I would argue the only reason libraries cannot afford more computer is because they are spending ridiculous amounts of money on them.

RE: Waste?
By MadMan007 on 2/21/2010 8:21:55 PM , Rating: 2
Ray Bradbury called, and he thinks it's awesome that in an all-digital future we can replace messy burning with a simple 'delete now? Y/N' dialog box.

Physical copies will always be important.

RE: Waste?
By monstergroup on 2/21/2010 3:29:28 AM , Rating: 2
How about this: instead of throwing away USF money on a service the vast majority of the public won't use, why doesn't the FCC just let the phone companies keep that money so they can offer us consumers lower rates?

Do you really think the telcos will lower our rates? lol

By OUits on 2/19/2010 11:16:04 AM , Rating: 2
The funding model for the USF is seriously breaking down, and it's going to get worse. Worse for the carriers who pay into it, worse for the customers who pay into it, and ultimately much worse for the population the USF is designed to help. Instead of making national datarate goals and trying to do more things with USF money, the FCC needs to take a serious look at the USF and reform the funding model if they want to continue to use its benefits. A lot of people are depending on it.

By rdhood on 2/19/2010 12:29:55 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, and a lot of people SHOULDN'T be depending on it. When the purpose for a tax no longer exists, the tax should GO AWAY. Instead, greedy politicians (and yes, it is the Obama administration that is currently pulling the strings at the FCC) just can't let a revenue stream go.

By OUits on 2/19/2010 12:52:31 PM , Rating: 2
What? Do you even know what the USF does? People depend on the USF because without it rural areas would not have access to the most basic network technologies, like wireline phone service and oh, 911. Telco's are in business to make PROFIT, and they lose money when they extend service to sparsely populated areas. You can't really argue that people shouldn't depend on the USF in that regard. I suppose you could take issue with the subsidy for low-income service, and the subsidy for schools and libraries, but the rural service aspect of the USF is still highly needed. The USF is one of the best products of the Telecom Act of '96, and it should transcend partisan disputes.

By MadMan007 on 2/21/2010 8:23:31 PM , Rating: 2
Step. Away. From. The Beck sir!

By roostitup on 2/19/10, Rating: 0
RE: catch?
By amanojaku on 2/19/2010 9:59:13 AM , Rating: 3
You go TO the school to use its computers, you don't connect to it. From the source:
The agency also unanimously voted to tweak the rules of the $8 billion phone-subsidy program so that schools that receive funding from the program can offer after-hours access to their computer centers to their communities. The FCC's current rules prevent schools from offering such access.

RE: catch?
By roostitup on 2/19/2010 8:33:17 PM , Rating: 1
That doesn't necessarily mean you have to GO TO the computer center. Are you sure they don't plan to let people connect to the computer center remotely after hours? Also, why the hell did I get rated down for asking a perfectly reasonable question? Come on people.

John Chambers...
By amanojaku on 2/19/2010 9:56:19 AM , Rating: 2
One major technology company, Cisco, has urged the FCC to adopt the new internet blueprint. Cisco's CEO John Chambers said, "A next generation Internet supported by accessible, affordable broadband can transform education, health care, energy, government as well as enable job creation and economic growth and gives Cisco another humongous sales opportunity ."
Fixed that for you, Mr. Chambers.

RE: John Chambers...
By MadMan007 on 2/19/2010 10:07:17 AM , Rating: 2
lol exactly. It's almost comical how transparent the statements from the various companies are.

By rdhood on 2/19/2010 12:23:53 PM , Rating: 2
Once introduced, taxes *never* go away. Someone will always re-purpose the tax for something else that someone "needs".

By rob8129 on 2/19/2010 12:51:04 PM , Rating: 2
The access to additional funds to help implement broadband access to schools is great, although I don't see schools opening up after hours to the public for a few reasons:

1. With school district budgets tightening in this down economy, who is going to pay to have a school/district employee to be on site while people are in the schools using the building?

2. Who would provide tech support (if need be) for the users?

3. Schools have to follow COPA for children under 18 to filter out inappropriate content, so how would that be established? You can set up different rights under your filtering software, but as always, it won't be a perfect solutions for all users.

4. Possible damage to the schools hardware/network via physical breakage or infiltration of a virus downloaded from a website or USB memory stick. (even with anti-virus software)

5. Legal can of worms from access to the equipment to possible access to inappropriate content by a minor. Yes people love to sue and it does happen. That's a big reason why schools have written policies and don't like to get into situations like this.

Having said all of the above, it really boils down to who will pay for the staffing as well as how can the school district minimize it's potential legal liability. With those two scenarios, I just don't think it will happen in the majority of cases.

This is new?
By troysavary on 2/19/2010 5:02:41 PM , Rating: 2
Here in Canada, public schools have offered after hour public access to broadband for about 15 years. Plus they were a great place for LAN gaming too.

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