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Friday, June 20, 2014

Actually, That's Not Quite Right

The second page of Chairman Wheeler's fact sheet on his reform proposal is just back-patting and stat-spewing.  Pardon me if I don't join in.  Instead, I'll do a little fact-checking.

This administrative review is already delivering huge dividends
  • More funds: No.  It's the same amount of funds.  By changing accounting practices, the Chairman will claw money back from future rollovers into this funding year.  It's a one-time funding bump that will mean less funding available in future years.
  • Faster processing: Double the pace of any previous year?  Let's just see about that.  Well, OK, that looks true.  As of June 20, $1.07 billion approved.  The closest I can find is 2010, when by June 18, $567 million approved.  Rounded to the nearest whole number, it is 2 times bigger.
Vital role in connecting U.S. schools and libraries
  • Federal government’s largest education technology program: Yup.
  • 1996, 14% of classrooms had Internet; 2005, the E-Rate program had successfully connected 94% of U.S. classrooms to the Internet: The numbers are right, but you can't say the E-Rate caused that increase.
  • emerging educational technology ... school boundaries:  Careful, there, Chairman Wheeler!  Remember, services can only be funded when they are used at eligible locations.
  • In libraries, high-speed broadband access provides...technological transformation of learning...: Blah blah blah
  • Three out of five schools in America lack the Wi-Fi...: I think that's based on a recent CoSN survey, which actually said that 41.2% of the 472 tech directors who responded are at least "somewhat confident" that a typical school is ready for a 1:1 initiative.
  • Half of school buildings have older, slower internal wiring that won’t carry data at today’s broadband speeds: Again, from the CoSN survey.  True, half the 463 tech directors who responded said they had some Cat5 in the building, but 61% said they had some Cat 6, and 77% said they had some Cat 5e.  Also, Cat5 can handle gigabit and PoE.  Are "today's broadband speeds" above a gig? (Yeah, OK, an 802.11ac AP can in theory handle more than a gig, but Cisco's only 802.11ac AP, for example, can only manage 1000BASE-T.)
  • no E-Rate money was available for Wi-Fi last year: Another way to put it: "We chose not to make any funding available for Wi-Fi last year."  You could have followed your own rules and pro-rated funding among 90% applicants.  Or you could have been more parsimonious with rollovers in the past and had enough to keep the P2 gravy train going for the 90%ers for another year.
  • when some Wi-Fi support was available in previous years, it reached just 5% of schools and 1% of libraries: And that is not going to be fixed by defunding outmoded services and clawing back future rollovers.  You need a lot more money.
  • an overwhelming majority of commenters have made clear that improving in-classroom Wi-Fi is one of -- if not the most -- important connectivity upgrade priority: It's nice that you heard that.  It's too bad you didn't also hear them saying that the size of the fund needs to be increased.
It's really disconcerting that so many decisions are being made on such inaccurate perceptions.

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