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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Step away from the bus

Another reason to kick cell phone carriers out of the program.

I recently came across an RFP from a district in GA is going out to bid for WiFi on its 168 buses.  Of course, access points are to be included in the service.  Clearly one of the cell phone carriers has been telling the district they could get E-Rate funding for this, but I see some problems:

1) Once the bus drives off campus, it's not an eligible location.  It's an interesting idea to give each bus a BEN and say that it's a mobile eligible location (like libraries do with bookmobiles), but I don't think that's going to fly.  While cell phones have an off-campus loophole, mobile data does not.  So the district would have to turn off the Internet access as soon as the bus leaves the parking lot.

2) As On-Premise Priority One Equipment, the access point fails because there is no single point of demarcation.  Are they going to try to get a free one as part of a bundle?  I don't think any carrier has a standard offering that includes an 802.11ac hotspot.

3) The RFP calls for 4G GSM service.  Sorry, GSM topped out at 3G.  All U.S. carriers use LTE for 4G.  However, this does help us narrow down which service provider came up with this terrible idea: only AT&T and T-Mobile have GSM networks.

4) Why does the RFP require 802.11ac, specifying 1.5 Gbps now, 7 Gbps later?  The LTE uplink is going to give you maybe 20 Mbps, so unless you're going to put printers or servers on the bus, that 1.5 Gbps WLAN is going to be 98.7% unused.

5) Now that recess is gone and lunch is cut to 20 minutes (with a 10-minute-long line), bus was the last opportunity for students to interact face-to-face.  Do we really need to take that away by having kids stare at their screens during the bus ride home? It's more of the "extend the school day" nonsense.  And my fellow parents know how often the bus driver will hear: "I can't get off the bus now; I'm in the middle of a boss battle!"

So we've got 1) ineligible location, 2) ineligible bundle, 3) technological impossibility, 4) wasteful over-engineering, and 5) less socialization.  But otherwise it's a cute idea.

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