Network infrastructure company Cisco is
recommending that the FCC put more emphasis on network infrastructure when it
reforms the e-rate program. E-rate is the government subsidy for advanced
telecommunications services to schools and libraries.
"E-rate is the
cornerstone of providing digital connection to students," said Renee
Patton, director of public sector education for Cisco, on a conference call with
reporters, but it is at a "crossroads." Cisco suggests the FCC should
take the road that leads to greater investment in infrastructure and speed.
"In too many schools the promise of connected classrooms is not a
reality," she said.
In a white paper released Thursday, Cisco recommended that the FCC
should put more money into the program for the necessary services and
equipment, should mandate baseline speeds, should support investment in
"comprehensive, business-grade broadband and network solutions," and
should eliminate the current priority on funding access service over investing
in the network infrastructure used to provide that service. "Schools
need more flexibility in shaping their funding requests," said Patton.
Cisco says without
that flexibility, schools make inefficient purchasing decisions by
"over-order[ing] voice and broadband access services, and neglect[ing] the
internal networks that are used to distribute those services among schools
within a district and among classrooms within a school."
In terms of speed,
Cisco says the FCC should set a goal that schools have 1 Gbps per 2,000
students by 2014 and 4 Gbps per 2,000 by 2018. Where last mile fiber is already
available, Cisco said, schools should have 2 Gbps by 2014 and a whopping 8 Gbps
That 1 Gbps by 2014
is more ambitious than President Obama's goal in the ConnectEd program. The
President earlier this year called on the FCC to help insure that 99% of
students have at least 100 Mpbs (and preferably 1 Gbps) by 2018.
Cisco says it
"stand[s] ready to help in any way possible."
In the paper, Cisco
points to bipartisan support in Congress for E-rate, which is true. But there
are some Republicans concerned about the President directing an independent
agency, the FCC, to affect his E-rate expansion initiative, and about the
potential additional fee on consumer phone bills.