Bandwidth Affordability: 3 School Wi-Fi Performance Challenges & Alternatives
Affordability is a big challenge for school wireless networks that are trying to deliver robust and reliable bandwidth to their students and staff. Almost one year ago the FCC decided to update the e-rate program, granting more funding and an improved application process.
The White House’s ConnectED goal is to have 99% of schools connected to broadband by 2018. That is only two years away! Resources are still needed to create dependable and high-performing wifi access in schools to continue to facilitate digital learning.
Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) put out its third-annual Infrastructure survey to get information from K-12 school directors and influencers about wireless connectivity in schools across the United States. This survey revealed three substantial challenges to robust Internet connectivity and bandwidth in schools:
Network speed and capability,
Some districts only have one option for an ISP provider affecting both affordability and network capacity, thus paying more while receiving worse service is not out of the ordinary for many districts. This means that 3 often directly impacts 1 and 2.
Overall, the survey revealed lower monthly Internet bills for many districts.
However, for those still struggling with cost effective solutions, one option is consortium purchasing, where districts group their broadband needs with others in the area.
Suggested Reading: "How Slow is Too Slow? K-12 School Wi-Fi Performance Stats [New Data]
Think of the idea as purchasing items in bulk at a Costco, you get a better price on your products and services because you are buying in larger quantity with better buying power.
In the event that the cost is still high for adequate coverage and/or the speed is still subpar (23% of survey respondents stated they have exceptionally low bandwidth,) you should consider other options in order to maximize the capacity or your current school wifi network.
One solution that may help in solving your wifi performance problems is Priority Queuing. While more bandwidth is always helpful, looking into priority queuing may allow you to solve some performance issues in the meantime by prioritizing specific users and applications over others. For example, Faculty>Students and Moodle>Facebook.
CoSN’s complete Infrastructure Survey can be downloaded from the organization’s website.
Suggested reading: "Why Campus Wi-Fi Performance Isn't Always About More Bandwidth"
In addition schools should utilize caching. The stored data keeping new data loaded vs old data can directly improve performance.
Addressing BYOD allowances serves to be a crucial step with the increased number of devices per student. Proper BYOD management allows individuals a dedicated amount of bandwidth so their five devices on social media, Netflix, and streaming services are not affecting another student taking an online exam.
Additional Suggested Reading: "3 Easy Ways Bandwidth Shaping Can Maximize Campus Wi-Fi Performance"