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Meeting of the Board of Regents | February 2010

Monday, February 8, 2010 - 2:00pm




EMSC Committee


John B. King, Jr.


Broadband Access


January 28, 2010


Goals 1 through 4






Issue for Discussion

Does the Board of Regents wish to make universal broadband access a part of its federal legislative agenda? 


Reason(s) for Consideration


        Implementation of policy.

Proposed Handling

This item will come before the EMSC Committee for discussion in February 2010.

Background Information

Broadband is widely accessible to urban, suburban, and rural school districts. Sufficient bandwidth and technical support inside individual school buildings remain the biggest challenges. Determining sufficient bandwidth depends on the needs of the users and their desired outcomes. The main focus should be on a definition of “sufficient” by every building based upon the volume of digital information, such as distance learning and video-enabled content that the school uses in providing educational content. However, a bandwidth of 100 megabits per second (100 mbps) is a nationally-recognized minimum standard. Based on survey data provided by the Regional Information Centers (RICs), approximately 14% (or, about 430) of 3007 school buildings/locations that responded have a bandwidth of less than 100 mbps. Based on one estimate for broadband access at $1300 per month for a school building, it would cost approximately $6.7 million to increase bandwidth to the minimum standard in these 430 school buildings/locations. This estimate does not include those school buildings/locations that did not respond, nor schools within New York City.  One strategy is to consider how schools and other USNY institutions in the community can increase access and reduce costs through shared technical services. 

Broadband access is a USNY-wide issue. Currently, 52% of New York households are broadband subscribers. In New York City, however, two-thirds of the population does not have home broadband, and 48% of households are not high-speed broadband subscribers. Cost is the major impediment to broadband adoption, but awareness of the uses of broadband and its importance in the digital economy are also factors.

The New York State Broadband Development and Deployment Council, created by Governor David A. Paterson under Executive Order 22, convened its first meeting in December 2009. The Council’s primary goal is to provide strategic direction to ensure all New Yorkers have access to high-speed Internet networks and are able to participate fully in today’s digital age. Council members include Regent Joseph Bowman, and the Department’s Chief Information Officer and Assistant Commissioner for Libraries, who also co-chair a technical committee for Digital Literacy and Adoption to address affordability, computer ownership and adoption, digital literacy and training, and consumer education.

In 2009, the Department formed an internal Broadband Work Group, led by the Chief Information Officer and the Office of Cultural Education, to address digital infrastructure and apply for Federal ARRA funding. The Work Group drafted a vision statement for broadband expansion to serve New York’s educational community (Attachment A), highlighting three main areas in which broadband funding can develop and promote support for technology through education:


  • Quality high-speed broadband
  • Digital literacy, education, and assistance
  • Digital content


The Federal Communications Commission has been directed to draft a National Broadband Plan that seeks to ensure “that all people of the United States have access to broadband capability and shall establish benchmarks for meeting that goal.” The national plan is due to be presented to Congress on March 17, 2010. New York will align its Statewide Learning Technology Plan and broadband strategy to both the New York State Broadband Strategic Plan and the upcoming National Broadband Plan.

              Congress awarded the United States Department of Agriculture $2.5 billion in Recovery Act funding to help bring broadband services to rural un-served and underserved communities.  Also, the Rural Utility Service (RUS) released a Notice of Funds Availability (NOFAs) for the second funding rounds for the Broadband Initiatives Program (BIP), pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which provides loans, grants, and loan/grant combinations to facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas.

One goal of the Statewide Learning Technology Plan is that “New York’s technology infrastructure supports teaching and learning in all environments.” In May 2009, SED issued a survey to gather baseline data that defines the current state of digital capacity and network access for the purpose of teaching and learning (Attachment B). The survey report provides another view of the current status of digital infrastructure in New York schools, with projections of anticipated status in 2-3 years.

Next Steps

Department staff will provide the Regents with additional data and cost estimates that would be necessary for the Regents to decide if they want to add this as a Federal legislative item.

In addition, the Offices of P-12 Education and Cultural Education, in cooperation with the Chief Information Officer, will continue to address broadband access and New York’s overall digital infrastructure as important priorities for implementing the Statewide Learning Technology Plan.

Attachment A:  ARRA Broadband Funding: The Role of the Educational Community

Attachment B:  Executive Summary on the Digital Capacity and Network Access Survey   












Attachment A

ARRA Broadband Funding:

The Role of the Educational Community

The New York State Board of Regents envisions an educational environment transformed by powerful learning tools.  The expansion of digital information and access will lead to increased student achievement; multiple digital learning environments, unbound by place or time; equitable access to curriculum and learning tools for all learners; and increased access to information by students of all ages through schools, libraries, museums, and other community centers, to broaden and deepen knowledge about subjects in ways unimagined by prior generations.

New York must increase citizen access to broadband in order to achieve this vision.  The issue is not just one of network pipes and infrastructure.  The focus of  ARRA broadband funding must be three-fold:  expansion of quality high-speed broadband to unserved and underserved areas; digital literacy education and assistance for underserved populations to learn how to use broadband access to improve their lives; and development of engaging digital content that enhances the quality of life for all citizens.

The ARRA recognizes the need to expand broadband capacity to all aspects of society. Schools, public libraries, and community colleges are viewed as key points of access to the Internet, and to educational information and opportunity.  ARRA broadband funding can generate and promote support for technology through education:  create digital literacy programs, community computing centers and programs and services that demonstrate the usefulness of broadband services and encourage people to connect.

Quality High-Speed Broadband

  • All citizens should have easy, consistent and affordable access to broadband, either at their residence or through freely-available public computing centers such as libraries.
  • Broadband should be defined as bandwidth sufficient, affordable, and reliable enough to support use of voice, video and e-government/e-business applications.  Such bandwidth may be different for residences, public institutions, and business, depending upon the digital content and applications needed by each.
  • All broadband connections should be made using easily upgradeable technologies that enable citizens and institutions to improve their connectivity over time in response to advances in technology and increases in demand.
  • All public libraries, elementary and secondary schools, community colleges, and other public computer centers should be served today by broadband networks capable of 100 megabits per second (Mbps) to meet current needs for sufficient bandwidth.


Digital Literacy, Education, and Assistance

  • Citizens who do not possess a basic set of technology and information evaluation skills to access and use currently available digital applications are considered unserved.  Areas of the state where there is insufficient publicly-available education, support, or hands-on training necessary to use digital technology and understand the relative value and veracity of digital information, regardless of the availability of sufficient bandwidth, are considered unserved areas.


  • A majority of the ARRA broadband funds should be made available to public libraries, schools, and community colleges to expand ‘public computer center capacity’, a component of which must include training and education programs that enable digital literacy for underserved areas.  These funds must improve digital literacy for a broad spectrum of the population and establish sustainable digital literacy programs.


Digital Content

  • Appropriate, effective, and easily-attainable public digital content should be available to all citizens.  ARRA funding should be used to enhance e-Government initiatives that deliver public services to all citizens over the internet.
  • ARRA funding should be directed to electronic delivery systems for adult education, family support services, employment services, health information services and community development opportunities.  Such services will become more ubiquitous through expansion of public computer center capacities at libraries, schools, and community colleges.


ARRA funding should be delivered to applicants who propose comprehensive approaches to supporting access to, and adoption of, broadband for unserved users. Successful applicants should be those who collaborate with public and private partners committed to fully scalable broadband technologies; community computing centers that support a broad spectrum of the population; and effective digital literacy programs.  These applicants must also demonstrate how broadband service will be sustainable for the communities they propose to serve.

The University of the State of New York (USNY) is uniquely qualified to provide opportunities for the three elements of broadband success: widespread public locations for access to robust broadband networks; educational programs to enable digital literacy of unserved and underserved populations; and creation and distribution of engaging digital content and services.

Final 4-2009



Attachment B


Office of Learning Technology Policy and Programs

Executive Summary of the Digital Capacity and Network Access Survey

February 2010


              In May 2009, the Department issued a survey to define the current state of digital capacity and network access in New York State schools, districts, and BOCES. Over 75% of respondents were from Regional Information Centers (RICs). Therefore, the data gathered should be considered an exploratory guide to the current and anticipated status of digital infrastructure in New York State schools.

Many respondents use their local RIC or BOCES as their primary provider of Internet access, and their local cable company as their secondary provider. Most respondents did not foresee future problems obtaining sufficient funding for required bandwidth, or future problems obtaining sufficient bandwidth due to their geography.

Current Status:


  • Where the RIC is the district’s internet service provider (ISP), nearly half connect at speeds under 1 gigabyte (GB), while a significant number connect above 1 GB.  The connection speed from the district to the RIC or ISP is slightly lower.


  • Fewer than a quarter of buildings within a district or BOCES have WiFi coverage.


  • Various learning management systems are used statewide, but only by some districts. Interactive whiteboards are very common in classrooms.


  • Various technologies, especially projectors, are seen as “necessary”.


  • The majority of classroom teachers continue to have limited professional development to support their technology integration in curriculum and instruction.


  • Social media tools are largely not allowed or provided by districts.  Allowed sites are largely teacher-filtered. A majority of students are not allowed to access outside e-mail in school.


  • Web-based teacher-parent interactions are still not common.


  • Web access to school applications and folders by teachers and students remains largely restricted.


  • A vast majority of students receive less than five hours of internet safety instruction per year. Such instruction is delivered by many types of instructors. 


  • Students also use few computing devices (other than graphic calculators). 




  • Interactive digital resources remain largely unused in current classrooms, with the exception of interactive science labs.


Anticipated Status in 2-3 Years:


  • The speed of an external connection from the district to the RIC or ISP is projected to slightly decrease. 


  • WiFi coverage is expected to increase. 


  • The percentage of district classrooms with various types of technology equipment is expected to increase.


  • Students (and teachers) will be increasingly able to access e-mail, blogs, wikis, and interactive web pages.


  • The ratio of students to computers is projected to decrease slightly.


  • The use of Hand-held and Thin Client computing devices is projected to increase.


  • The use of interactive digital resources is also expected to increase.


              Technology integration in learning and teaching will continue to expand in New York State schools and districts. A similar digital capacity and network survey can be disseminated by the State Education Department to continue following trends in technology integration and to address future needs.