An analyst recommends more access points and newer wireless standards for schools taking advantage of the expanded E-Rate 2.0.

Rethinking the K–12 Wireless Landscape With E-Rate 2.0

An analyst recommends more access points and newer wireless standards for schools taking advantage of the expanded E-Rate 2.0.

When the FCC approved E-Rate 2.0, it must have felt a little like Christmas for some district technology directors.

A divided FCC voted in July on a package of massive changes to its 18-year-old telecommunications subsidy program for schools and libraries. The newly revised E-Rate adds $1 billion to target wireless broadband connections in schools and libraries, with another $1 billion the following year. It also eases the process for schools and libraries to apply for these funds and lowers the barrier of entry for high-poverty applicants.

Many IT experts are likely champing at the bit to spend the newfound funding on the latest wireless technologies.

Where to start? In a July blog post for Network World, communications industry analyst Zeus Kerravala penned seven tips for making the best use these funds. The FCC's modernization of E-Rate was overdue, Kerravala says, but now that it's occurred, "schools should be aggressive with their Wi-Fi plans."

According to Kerravala, teachers should plan on having one access point in each classroom. That's more than the traditional one AP for every two or three classrooms, he says. A more dense distribution of APs lightens the bandwidth burden in each classroom, opening the way for more connected devices and more streaming content per lesson.

The analyst also advised schools to adopt the latest wireless networking standard, 802.11AC, which is still considered cutting-edge technology. The new standard, adopted in January, supports data transfer rates of up to 7 gigabits per second. That’s enough throughput to carry most schools for the foreseeable future. 

In addition to planning for ample bandwidth inside school walls, Kerravala said, district technologists should take this opportunity to think outside the box, and plan for outdoor Internet access as well. After all, in a wireless age, why should any device be stuck inside the classroom?

Read all of Karavella’s tips on NetworkWorld.com.

What's the first approach you'd take with your school using the expanded wireless funding? Let us know in the comments.

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Aug 05 2014

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