I recently attended a career day at my son’s Piedmont Middle School in Milpitas California.  It was enormously successful thanks to excellent preparation by the educators, staff and the student web leaders.  Thirty-five presenters shared advice and entertained the students about the music industry, 3D printed medical devices, robotics and even a real rocket scientist!   How about that Simon!?

And then there was me.  Talking about Wi-Fi and product management.  I did my best, but hey, I’m no rocket scientist.

As parents, we rely on the school districts to set up the best learning environment.  A key part of that is staying ahead, not just keeping pace, with how technology is changing the education environment.  The future of education will include real and virtual field trips enhanced with AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality), biometric attendance, and digital science labs, to name a few.  With so much to do, how can we expect teachers to diagnose Wi-Fi network issues?

In the US market, the FCC is making $5.1 billion available in 2019 for schools and libraries to modernize and upgrade the learning environment.  These funds are available through the 2019 financial year as defined in the 2014 FCC modernization order.  https://www.fcc.gov/general/summary-second-e-rate-modernization-order.  For the 2020 year, the order will have to be renewed.  Schools that upgraded in the 2015 year will need to upgrade again.

Get Ahead of the Pack

Professionals in this field recommend following three milestones to prepare.  Rather than wait for the FCC to announce a renewal of the modernization order, schools should prepare early for the 2020 filing season.

July:  have a 5-year plan outline.  Sign up for industry newsletters to keep up with FCC program changes.  Take training classes on the USAC website https://www.usac.org/sl/.  Know your funding level.

August:  request product and network demonstrations from multiple equipment providers.  This is allowed under the rules and few school districts take advantage of this provision.  Begin preparing a bid template using those found on the USAC website.

September:  Post the 470 bid early.  Finalize product demonstrations.  Let the bidders know your choice of invoicing method, BEAR or SPI, so they can offer the best options for your school.

Why upgrade now

There are three solid reasons to consider a wireless network upgrade now, even if you did one three or four years ago.

  1. New tablets, chromebooks and laptops are not as backward compatible as they might claim to be.  They all say they support 802.11a.b.g.n.ac; but in fact the drivers are very often optimized for the latest protocols.  Network professionals recommend keeping the W-Fi network and device technology on the same generation for optimal compatibility and performance.
  • The rapid pace of new cloud based education and communications technologies is unpredictable.  The only thing we can say is that bandwidth needs are constantly on the rise.  Just this week, Google announced Stadia, https://www.blog.google/products/stadia/stadia-a-new-way-to-play/ a streaming based gaming platform.  Consider the potential of this new technology to transform education using game theory to teach social science, mathematics, and conceptual learning.  Don’t kid yourself, this stuff is real.
  • The US Congress will have to renew the e-rate funding, and the FCC will have to reissue the modernization order.  There’s never a guarantee that next year will have the same, more, or less funding than this year.  Take advantage of the funds while you can.

What Cambium Networks is doing

Cambium Networks is heavily invested in improving education and the learning environment around the globe.  Read this recent case study where Elizabeth and Charlie Galik enabled a school in Puerto Rico to enhance the education experience and free up the teachers to focus on what they do best. https://www.cambiumnetworks.com/resource/7-questions-about-connecting-classrooms-in-puerto-rico/