K-12 broadband report says DIS stiffs schools, recommends change | Arkansas Blog

Friday, December 5, 2014

K-12 broadband report says DIS stiffs schools, recommends change

Posted By on Fri, Dec 5, 2014 at 8:50 AM

click to enlarge PRICE GOUGE: The connections administered by DIS are too slow and too expensive. - EDUCATIONSUPERHIGHWAY
  • EducationSuperHighway
  • PRICE GOUGE: The connections administered by DIS are too slow and too expensive.

A long-awaited report released today by the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway (ESH) delivered recommendations for boosting broadband connectivity in Arkansas schools, an ongoing debate that's pitted internet service providers (such as AT&T, Windstream and Cox) against education advocates, Gov. Mike Beebe and a Walton-backed group called FASTER Arkansas. 

Its conclusions largely support the arguments of the latter side. Ultimately, it says, "connecting districts to an aggregated statewide network for Internet access is likely to be the most effective means for Arkansas to meet ... [federal] goals within its existing budget." More than likely, that means ARE-ON, the state-run fiber optic network for universities. Evan Marwell, CEO of the nonprofit, said in an email, "we believe that ARE-ON should be allowed to compete for the statewide network but also that private providers may end up being the best solution for this network."

A law passed quietly with backing from the private providers several years ago prohibits K-12 schools from using ARE-ON, even though the network has slack connectivity that could be used. FASTER Arkansas and its allies have been pushing to repeal that law, and today's report gives them further ammunition.

In the short term, says the report, the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE) needs to stop buying Internet service from the Department of Information Systems (DIS), the state technology agency that a recent governmental audit has revealed is troubled by financial problems. The APSCN network that DIS operates for the benefit of public schools uses copper wire, providing subpar connection speeds at a jacked up price. 

APSCN is insufficient for the needs of a school in 2014, so most districts also buy Internet connectivity from a private provider (just like a household or business does). The ESH report shows that the rates charged by DIS are out of whack with the market:

Unfortunately, the ADE’s current investment in the Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN) is doing little to meet the needs of Arkansas’ public school students. While 58% of Arkansas districts meet the current ConnectED 100 kbps/student target (versus 37% nationally), EducationSuperHighway’s analysis shows that this is due primarily to the fiber-based Internet access purchases that 90% of districts make on their own. ... direct school district Internet access purchases account for 95% of the broadband available in Arkansas K-12 schools while the average price per Mbps ($13) is 95% less than ADE’s $286/Mbps APSCN contract. This suggests that ADE can significantly increase the Internet access it provides to districts by more effectively utilizing its $11 million annual investment.

ESH recommends that ADE stop spending money on an outdated DIS-administered system and issue an RFP to purchase connectivity through private providers instead.

On the face of it at least, that sounds like it will make the providers happy. They won't be as pleased with the long-term recommendations to move towards an aggregated statewide network, since it means they'd likely be competing with ARE-ON in that instance.

Here's the full report:

Tags: , , , , , ,



Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-1 of 1

Add a comment

More by Benjamin Hardy

  • Supreme Court overturns contempt order against DHS for at-home services rule

    The justices were split, 5-2, with Chief Justice Dan Kemp and Justice Jo Hart dissenting. The ruling appears to have no immediate impact for ARChoices beneficiaries.
    • Apr 18, 2019
  • Update: State Supreme Court orders new trial in Torres capital murder case

    The court remanded the case for a new trial. The reversal was due to an underlying flaw in the legal arguments made by prosecutors in the case, turning on the question of whether an Arkansas trial court had jurisdiction in regards to the underlying felony of rape.
    • Apr 18, 2019
  • Arkansas Medicaid sees enrollment bump

    Though the rise is modest, it is notable because the Medicaid expansion population has shrunk almost every month for the past two years. As highlighted by Governor Hutchinson, enrollment peaked at around 330,000 in early 2017 but has been declining ever since.
    • Apr 15, 2019
  • More »

Readers also liked…

People who saved…

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: Good Friday Open Line

    • Aw, thanks, everyone, for the birthday wishes. It was nice, uneventful day, leading into what…

    • on April 20, 2019
  • Re: Good Friday Open Line

    • I join in the birthday wishes, Vanessa.

    • on April 20, 2019
  • Re: Power struggle at AETN

    • Just another example of A$A!! fucking up everything he touches. Such a knack for picking…

    • on April 20, 2019

© 2019 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation