The Impact of Broadband on Education in the USA

The Impact of Broadband on Education in the USA

Paul Cleary (Northeastern University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-014-1.ch087
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Abstract

The rapid pace of international growth in Internet use is putting enormous pressure on nations to acquire Internet technology in order to compete in the global economy. In the USA, even as Internet access is being disseminated widely throughout society, Internet technology is rapidly changing to meet the growing demands for information. Cheaper and slower dial-up access is being replaced by high-speed broadband access (Horrigan, 2006, p. ii; NTIA, 2004, p. 1). Broadband access provides many advantages over slower dial-up service. In addition to faster and easier Web navigation, more information is becoming available and in greater variety. As a result, the typical Web search time has been greatly reduced and access to information and applications such as higher quality graphics are becoming more widespread. Broadband access is growing at a faster rate than dial-up access (Horrigan, 2006, p. iv). Evidence suggests that broadband users are more likely to use the Internet in a wider variety of ways than traditional dial-up users. Since broadband is always connected, making access easier than ever, it has the potential to greatly affect the frequency and duration of user sessions, type of search, and location of access. As often stated, “While modem use is disruptive, broadband use is integrative” (The Digital Future Project, 2005, p. 4). According to one survey, 69% of broadband users go online on a typical day, compared to 51% using dial-up service. As applications of broadband activity widen, the typical delays encountered in accessing dial-up service are avoided. As the global competitive environment intensifies, there is an economic imperative to prepare American K-12 students for this new reality (Honey et al., 2005). As broadband expansion throughout society increases, its potential impact on education is deepening. Its role has expanded beyond just enhancing the traditional classroom curriculum toward an integrated part of the educational curriculum. As schools increasingly assign work requiring online searches, students are encouraged to use broadband to complete assignments. Those without access will be at an increasing disadvantage. In response, public schools have made substantial gains in acquiring Internet technology in recent years and nearly all currently have broadband Internet access as well. In 2003, 95% of all public schools with Internet access used broadband (Parsad & Jones, 2003, p. 3). This represents a 15% increase in broadband use since 2000. Furthermore, public schools are increasingly improving access for disadvantaged students by providing additional availability around normal school hours for those that do not have at home access. The intent of this article is to examine current broadband use and its potential impact on overall educational experiences of school-age children. Does increased broadband use among children have a positive effect on the frequency, duration, manner, and type of Internet use as well as educational performance? Are children now using it more frequently for education and for research and information gathering purposes?
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Introduction

The rapid pace of international growth in Internet use is putting enormous pressure on nations to acquire Internet technology in order to compete in the global economy. In the USA, even as Internet access is being disseminated widely throughout society, Internet technology is rapidly changing to meet the growing demands for information. Cheaper and slower dial-up access is being replaced by high-speed broadband access (Horrigan, 2006, p. ii; NTIA, 2004, p. 1). Broadband access provides many advantages over slower dial-up service. In addition to faster and easier Web navigation, more information is becoming available and in greater variety. As a result, the typical Web search time has been greatly reduced and access to information and applications such as higher quality graphics are becoming more widespread.

Broadband access is growing at a faster rate than dial-up access (Horrigan, 2006, p. iv). Evidence suggests that broadband users are more likely to use the Internet in a wider variety of ways than traditional dial-up users. Since broadband is always connected, making access easier than ever, it has the potential to greatly affect the frequency and duration of user sessions, type of search, and location of access. As often stated, “While modem use is disruptive, broadband use is integrative” (The Digital Future Project, 2005, p. 4). According to one survey, 69% of broadband users go online on a typical day, compared to 51% using dial-up service. As applications of broadband activity widen, the typical delays encountered in accessing dial-up service are avoided.

As the global competitive environment intensifies, there is an economic imperative to prepare American K-12 students for this new reality (Honey et al., 2005). As broadband expansion throughout society increases, its potential impact on education is deepening. Its role has expanded beyond just enhancing the traditional classroom curriculum toward an integrated part of the educational curriculum. As schools increasingly assign work requiring online searches, students are encouraged to use broadband to complete assignments. Those without access will be at an increasing disadvantage.

In response, public schools have made substantial gains in acquiring Internet technology in recent years and nearly all currently have broadband Internet access as well. In 2003, 95% of all public schools with Internet access used broadband (Parsad & Jones, 2003, p. 3). This represents a 15% increase in broadband use since 2000. Furthermore, public schools are increasingly improving access for disadvantaged students by providing additional availability around normal school hours for those that do not have at home access.

The intent of this article is to examine current broadband use and its potential impact on overall educational experiences of school-age children. Does increased broadband use among children have a positive effect on the frequency, duration, manner, and type of Internet use as well as educational performance? Are children now using it more frequently for education and for research and information gathering purposes?

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Background

International statistics on broadband adoption indicate that although the USA has the largest number of broadband subscribers worldwide (58.1 M), accounting for over one fourth (29%) of the world’s total, it ranks low in societal penetration relative to other nations. The USA broadband penetration rate (subscribers per 100 inhabitants) of 19.6% ranks 15th behind nations such as Denmark (31.9%), the Netherlands (31.8%), Iceland (29.7%), and South Korea (29.1%) (OECD, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Cable Modem: Enable cable operators to provide broadband using the same coaxial cables that deliver television pictures and sound (FCC, 2006, p. 4).

Wireless Internet: Connects a home or business to the Internet using a radio link between the customer’s location and the service provider’s facility. Wireless can be mobile or fixed (FCC, 2006, p. 4).

Digital Subscriber Line (DSL): A wire line transmission technology that transmits data faster over traditional copper telephone lines already installed in homes and businesses. DSL broadband provides transmission speeds ranging from several hundred Kbps to millions of bits per second (mbps) (FCC, 2006, p. 3).

Fiber: Fiber optics technology converts electrical signals carrying data to light and sends it through transparent glass fibers which transmit data at much faster speeds than current DSL or cable modem speeds (FCC, 2006, p. 4).

Multimedia: A computer-based product that enhances the communication of information by combining two or more of the following: text, graphic art, sound, animation, video, or interactivity (Ellis, 2001, p. 110)

Broadband: Broadband is a high speed Internet access service at data transmission speeds exceeding 200,000 bits per second (200 Kbps) in at least one direction (FCC, 2006, p. 1). Definitions vary, but the FCC differentiates four major types of broadband service: digital subscriber line (DSL), cable modem, wireless Internet, and satellite (FCC, 2005, p. 2).

Satellite: Another form of wireless broadband in which orbiting satellites provide links for broadband. Satellite access is useful for serving remote or sparsely settled populated areas (FCC, 2006, p. 5).

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