FCC survey suggests Schools and Libraries need more IT staff

The Federal Communications Commission's Wireline Competition Bureau has released its 2010 E-Rate Program and Broadband Usage Survey, which gathered data from E-rate funded schools and libraries to assess the current state of broadband in our education system. The "E-rate" is a discount on telecommunications services and Internet access that the Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Program offers to eligible institutions.

The report collected the various broadband connection types and speeds across urban and rural schools, districts, libraries, and consortiums; and then polled the administrators about whether they felt their speed and coverage were adequate.

22% said their connection speeds completely meet their needs, 58% said their connections mostly meets their needs, 16% believed their current connections sometimes meets their
needs, 3% believed their connections rarely met their needs, and only 1% believed their connection did not meet their needs at all.

However, when given two questions "what is your average connection speed" and "what is the minimum speed needed," 38% put down a speed less than the minimum they felt was necessary and 36% put down matching speeds. 20% of respondents didn't know what would be an adequate minimum or didn't know their actual speeds, and only 6% felt their speeds exceeded the minimum requirements.

This disparity in perception, and the 20% who didn't know how to gauge their levels shows the prevalent need for public IT staff. School administrators, according to this survey, are somewhat clueless. For example, 45% of the school principals surveyed did not know the average speed, and 48% did not know the minimum speed needed. But only 3% of schools with a dedicated IT staffer didn't know this information.

The Bureau suggests that non-IT professionals making provisioning decisions could make erroneous judgements in hardware or bandwidth purchases; and this could certainly turn a perceived problem into a real one.

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