Feeds

What kid uses wires? FCC supremo angry that US classrooms are filled with unused RJ45 ports

Even if they get on Wi-Fi, the broadband is crap, we're told

Intelligent flash storage arrays

The head of the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is calling on US lawmakers to change the way internet connectivity is funded and deployed in schools.

Speaking at a legislative conference, Tom Wheeler – chairman of the watchdog – said the E-Rate program that supplies communications gear to schools and libraries in America should focus on replacing wired Ethernet in classrooms with Wi-Fi setups.

Wheeler, who oversees administration of the networks, described touring classrooms and finding walls lined with unused Ethernet ports as teachers and students rely on portable devices and Wi-Fi networks far more than machines hooked up to wired connections – even though wireless connectivity is chronically underfunded.

And even if the kids could connect to a network from their gadget or computer, the available bandwidth to the internet is woefully inadequate, judging by the chairman's anecdotal evidence.

To that end, says Wheeler, E-Rate should reduce spending on unpopular wired Ethernet, ramp up Wi-Fi coverage in classrooms, and then shift its focus to hooking schools and libraries up to high-speed broadband.

"This past year, for the first time ever, after supporting priority one services, no funding was available to support Wi-Fi," he said.

"So for the most recent funding year America’s largest program for connecting schools spent less than half of its $2.4 billion providing 100 megabit-per-second capacity, and nothing for Wi-Fi. Why do we spend over a billion dollars per year on things that don’t enhance the high-speed broadband connectivity our teachers and students need?

"Answering that question, however, begins to ruffle feathers because it means potentially reallocating E-Rate resources. Or looking at new ways to structure the manner in which funds are allocated."

Developed in 1997 through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), the E-Rate Schools and Libraries program funds the installation and maintenance of telecommunications systems in schools. The system offers state-funded schools and libraries discounts on services and support for their IT deployments.

Wheeler charges that the system is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars per year by funding outdated projects that are rarely used. Rather than fund services such as hosted email, toll-free telephone services and web hosting, Wheeler said that newer wireless broadband services need to take precedent.

"A 21st century E-Rate program needs to focus on 21st century needs," he said.

"I recognize that this means hard decisions – both in E-Rate administration and school administration. How we evolve from analog voice to digital voice services in schools is one of those tough challenges."

The FCC chairman has been no stranger to controversy. Since taking over the role from Julius Genachowski last fall, Wheeler has generated debate on issues including net neutrality and broadband spectrum expansion. ®

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.