Jonathan Chambers addresses the WiscNet Membership at the WiscNet Future Technologies Conference 2015

Jonathan Chambers addresses the WiscNet Membership at the WiscNet Future Technologies Conference 2015

Extending Internet Access to Our Communities

In May 2015, Jonathan Chambers, Director of Strategic Planning and Policy at the FCC, challenged the WiscNet membership to think about what it would take for schools and libraries to extend their Internet infrastructure in Wisconsin communities. Programs like E-Rate have invested billions in the past 20 years to bring Internet access to schools and libraries. However, 2/3 of the day student and patrons are elsewhere. Rural and low income households are increasingly dependent on expensive, limited mobile connectivity or no connectivity at all. What are we doing about this?

Leaders from schools and libraries across Wisconsin have started to gather together in the WiscNet's Extending Internet to Our Communities workgroup to explore strategies to address something dubbed, "the homework gap." Ideas range from, "keep schools and libraries open extended hours" to "end poverty." There are also a few technological strategies. LTE towers, mobile MiFi type devices, etc.

Hands On Sessions

First Responder Wireless Solutions

Healthcare’s rapidly changing technological landscape calls for technology that supports “care without borders.” Several healthcare organizations in the Chippewa Valley have collaborated to create telehealth networks in western Wisconsin. These networks, made possibly by the Chippewa Valley Internetworking Consortium, provide secure point-to-point fiber optic connectivity between hospitals, clinics, skilled nursing facilities, and data centers in the Chippewa Valley and surrounding small towns and rural areas. This session will highlight how telehealth networks save lives and support better, faster, and more cost-effective patient care.

“The Air Strategy” - Fixed Wireless Solutions and the Role Community Area Networks Play in Public/Private Partnerships
Chippewa Valley Internetworking Consortium
Ross Wilson, CESA #10, Director of Technology

Community Area Networks play a vital role in public/private partnerships at various levels. CINC’s “air strategy” is a project that will update three current WiMax towers, build a new tower near Lake Eau Claire County Park to bring Wi-Fi to rural parks, and lay about 15,000 feet of underground fiber. Along with providing better Internet service to hospitals, schools, libraries, law enforcement agencies, and other public partners, the program will allow private citizens in the area to purchase Internet through Packerland Broadband (owned by Michigan-based company CCI Systems), the private telecommunications company working on the project. 

“Check Out” Kajeet Wireless Solutions
Green Bay Area Public Schools
John Ottow, Director of Technology
Diane Doersch, Chief Information Officer

With kids and families on the go, providing students with safe broadband outside the classroom may seem challenging. Students (and their families) don’t fit one particular profile; after the bell rings not all your students go straight to a house with Wi-Fi Internet access. Students may go to a babysitter’s house. It may be their week with dad -- or perhaps they need to meet mom at the library because they don't have Internet at home. Many kids spend the evening tagging along with older siblings to sport practices or activities. Whatever the circumstances, students can have the tools and resources to complete their homework—anytime, anywhere. Green Bay Area Public Schools have explored the Kajeet SmartSpot as one solution to the issue of meeting the needs of today’s mobile students and providing them with safe access to education content.

School Bus Wireless Solutions
Fall Creek School District
Jake Schoeder, Technology Director

Students in many Wisconsin school districts often live in areas of low cellular coverage and limited Internet connectivity options. Several school districts are implementing 1:1 programs giving students access to Chromebooks, iPads, etc. to enhance engagement with content and encourage self-directed learning. The Fall Creek School District has a project that aims to provide Internet access to students on school buses during their trips to and from school, leveraging all available connectivity options, such as 4G networks and WiMAX where available. The project will extend the useful time that can be spent on 1:1 activities and provide time for students without home Internet access a time to do homework. 

Defining the Homework Gap

In April 2015, the Pew Research Center published, "The numbers behind the broadband 'homework gap'".

 Horrigan, J. (2015, April 20). The numbers behind the broadband ‘homework gap’. Retrieved August 21, 2015, from

Horrigan, J. (2015, April 20). The numbers behind the broadband ‘homework gap’. Retrieved August 21, 2015, from

"How big is the homework gap? A new Pew Research Center analysis finds most American homes with school-age children do have broadband access – about 82.5% (about 9 percentage points higher than average for all households). With approximately 29 million households in America having children between the ages of 6 and 17, according to Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey data, this means that some 5 million households with school-age children do not have high-speed internet service at home. Low-income households – and especially black and Hispanic ones – make up a disproportionate share of that 5 million."

Horrigan, J. (2015, April 20). The numbers behind the broadband ‘homework gap’. Retrieved August 21, 2015, from

Smartphone Dependence

 U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015. (2015, April 1). Retrieved August 21, 2015, from

U.S. Smartphone Use in 2015. (2015, April 1). Retrieved August 21, 2015, from

10% of Americans own a smartphone but do not have broadband at home, and 15% own a smartphone but say that they have a limited number of options for going online other than their cell phone. Those with relatively low income and educational attainment levels, younger adults, and non-whites are especially likely to be “smartphone-dependent.”

"Certain groups of Americans rely on smartphones for online access at elevated levels, in particular:

Younger adults — 15% of Americans ages 18-29 are heavily dependent on a smartphone for online access.
Those with low household incomes and levels of educational attainment — Some 13% of Americans with an annual household income of less than $30,000 per year are smartphone-dependent. Just 1% of Americans from households earning more than $75,000 per year rely on their smartphones to a similar degree for online access.
Non-whites — 12% of African Americans and 13% of Latinos are smartphone-dependent, compared with 4% of whites.

Compared with smartphone owners who are less reliant on their mobile devices, these smartphone-dependent users are less likely to own some other type of computing device, less likely to have a bank account, less likely to be covered by health insurance, and more likely to rent or to live with a friend or family member rather than own their own home."

Smith, A., McGenney, K., Duggan, M., Rainie, L., & Keeter, S. (2015). U.S. smartphone use in 2015 (p. 60). Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

Definition of Broadband

The FCC’s definition of “broadband” in 2015 is 25 Mbps down, 4 Mbps up. This eliminates those DSL services as well as most mobile wireless services from qualifying as “broadband”. This doesn’t stop anybody from using “broadband” as a marketing term. For fun, read Doc Searls, “Broadband vs. Internet” post.

"While the Internet is often called a “network of networks,” what defines the “network of” is a suite of protocols and standards that transcend individual networks and give the whole a single and coherent way of working. Broadband is an old telecommunications term which, as Wikipedia puts it, “became popularized through the 1990s as a vague marketing term for Internet access.”

Solutions Discussion and Brainstorming

There are many different strategies floating out there. This will be a chance to lay everything out on the table, discuss the pros and cons, and see how many of these options are sticky.

LinkWISCONSIN Broadband Mapping: These interactive maps help consumers understand and visually illustrate what broadband options and speeds are available to them. The maps provide users with the opportunity to type in an address and visualize wireline and wireless providers for that location, additionally web links are provided to each of the providers that are likely servicing the particular address.

“Poverty is poverty.” This isn't just a K12 issue. Libraries, municipalities, healthcare organizations all share the same interests as us in K12. "The homework gap is the healthcare gap."

"Wired: The real thing. The key. Wireless: Extension cords to the real thing."

E-Rate Reform 2015 - What would it take to file an E-Rate waiver for Wisconsin schools and libraries that would allow us to extend Internet beyond our walls?

Lifeline Program - Ars Technica article May 29, 2015
ConnectHome - New York Times article July 15, 2015

The FCC budgeted 3.9 billion and hit their mark in the last year. That’s what the data said. Requests will go up, but they will come back down. This is a 10 year, 100 billion program. The money will come. Think long term, but test their ability to make this happen. The FCC needs case studies of schools and libraries so they have a case to present.

Kajeet - Low cost (free) devices tied to monthly data plans (?/month) distributed through library media centers in schools. Green Bay Area Public Schools uses the Kajeets. Tied to Verizon as the carrier.

Stevens Point School District Expanding Internet Access to Students at Home

"This school year, the district is rolling out a new program where students who meet low income requirements and don't currently have internet at home can get a wireless hotspot unit called a Kajeet from the district. The Stevens Point School District has purchased 200 Kajeet units, which were funded through the Sentry Insurance Technology Initiative."

Chippewa Valley Internetworking Consortium -
WiMax - Every emergency vehicle attaches via cell card and wifi equipment package. Always pulled from WiFi hotspots first.

CCI Systems - Private provider in the Chippewa Valley providing access and authentication straight back into the school’s network.

WiRover - Suman Banji @ UW-Madison: Wireless Access on Busses - Fall Creek School District, Augusta School District, Elcho School District

Madison, Wisconsin MUFN Pilot Program - Madison sends out RFP for Internet access pilot in low-income neighborhoods

"The pilot project aims to address the digital divide, a gap both in access and skills that disproportionately affects low-income individuals and Hispanic and black households nationwide. The city plans to implement a small two-year pilot project, conducting a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether to expand to other areas of the city."
UW and City of Madison selected for ultra high bandwidth applications
"The University of Wisconsin-Madison and City of Madison are among 15 communities to participate in plans by the public-private nonprofit group US Ignite for ultra-high speed broadband networking — part of an effort to foster the creation of next-generation Internet applications that provide transformative public benefits."