BROADBAND COMMUNITIES is the leading source of information on digital and broadband technologies for buildings and communities. Our editorial aims to accelerate the deployment of Fiber-To-The-Home and Fiber-To-The-Premises.
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60 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | OCTOBER 2015 BROADBAND APPS Education Drives Demand for Fiber In education, as in other felds, innovation increasingly depends on technology – and that technology involves homes as well as schools. "Homework gap" households without good Internet access will lose educational opportunities. By Rollie Cole / Sagamore Institute for Policy Research R oughly 30 percent of all U.S. households – about 37 million – have one or more children under the age of 18. All those households are or soon will be participating in the educational system. If the trends I identifed at South by Southwest Education (SXSWedu) hold true, most of those households will have clear reasons for subscribing to fber-to-the-home services. SXSWedu is an annual conference held in Austin by the same organization that puts on the huge South by Southwest conferences on flm, music and video games. In 2015, SXSWedu attracted more than 6,000 participants, including (in roughly equal proportions) educators, vendors trying to sell services to educators, and interested observers, such as me. It featured hundreds of sessions, 100-plus exhibitors and, of course, a party at the end of each day. Te size and rapid growth of this conference, which frst launched as a regional event in 2011, shows how much is going on in the world of educational innovation. During the 2014 and 2015 events, I identifed several trends likely to cause communities to demand higher broadband speeds in the near future – not just in schools but wherever teachers or students of any age are found. ONLINE TESTING Te move to online testing is the most immediate driver of bandwidth demand in schools. Te adoption of Common Core and similar standards and assessments, as every parent knows, has led to an increase in federal- and state-mandated testing. Because online testing is clearly faster, better and cheaper, many state regulatory agencies are requiring it, sometimes even before adequate broadband is in place. A number of school districts are struggling because their physical and social infrastructures are not equal to the challenge. In general, testing creates a need for better broadband to and within schools, but students can also beneft from online practice at home. DIGITAL EDUCATIONAL MATERIALS In addition to requiring online testing, state agencies are beginning to mandate the use of digital educational materials. For example, North Carolina, which passed laws to limit municipal broadband in 2011, is restricting state textbook funding to digital materials beginning in fall 2016. A number of huge textbook publishers, such as McGraw-Hill and Pearson, were involved throughout SXSWedu. Teir textbook replacements, which are increasingly graphic and interactive, require large fles to be stored and displayed from somewhere. Publishers made their early experiments work by loading the requisite fles on individual devices in some cases and on school or district servers in others. However, they are facing severe pushback. Students are using devices, such as smartphones and tablets, that have limited storage, and schools and districts are