The Internet is a network of millions of computers worldwide, connected together.
It is an elaborate source of education, information, entertainment, and
communication. Recently, President Bill Clinton expressed an idea to put the
Internet into every classroom in America by the year 20004. Considering the
magnitude of this problem, and the costs involved, it is not realistically
possible to set this as a goal.
The Internet allows the almost five million computers 1 and countless users of
the system to collaborate easily and quickly either in pairs or in groups. Users
are able to access people and information, distribute information, and
experiment with new technologies and services. The Internet has become a major
global infrastructure used for education, research, professional learning,
public service, and business.
The costs of setting up and maintaining Internet access are varied and changing.
Lets take a look at some of the costs of setting up Internet service in a
typical school. First comes the hardware. Hardware required is generally a
standard Windows-based PC or Macintosh and a 14.4 Kbs or higher modem. This
will cost about $1000 apiece. If the average school has 50 classrooms, already
the cost has risen to $50,000 per school, for only one connection per classroom.
Next you need actual Internet service. For 24-hour connections expect to pay
$100 or more per month, per account.
If a school plans to have more than a few individual Internet users, it will
need to consider a network with a high-speed dedicated line connected to the
Internet. This school network would probably be a small- or medium-sized network
in a single building or within very few geographically close buildings.
Connecting an entire school may require more than one specific LAN(Local Area
Most high-speed Internet connections are provided through a dedicated leased
line, which is a permanent connection between two points. This provides a high
quality permanent Internet connection at all times. Most leased lines are
provided by a telephone company, a cable television company, or a private
network provider and cost $200 per month or more. The typical connection from a
LAN or group of LANs to the Internet is a digital leased line with a Channel
Service Unit/Data Service Unit (CSU/DSU), which costs between $600 and $1000.
When budgeting for a school’s Internet connection there are a number of factors
to consider that might not seem immediately obvious. Technical support and
training will incur additional ongoing costs, even if those costs show up only
as an individual’s time spent. Equipment will need to be maintained and upgraded
as time passes, and even when all teachers have received basic Internet training,
they will most likely have questions as they explore and learn more on their own.
A general rule for budget planning is this: for every dollar you spend on
hardware and software, plan to spend three dollars to support the technology and
those using it2.
There are approximately 81,000 public schools in America. Within these schools,
there are about 46.6 million children in kindergarten through 12th grade3.
Considering an average of about 50 classrooms per school, at an average cost of
$1,000 per classroom for one connection(an extremely low estimate), this will
give president Clinton’s idea a price tag of roughly $4 billion. This estimate
does not even begin to take into account the costs of constant upgrades, full-
time technicians, and structural changes required to install these systems.
When you look into the actual facts of a problem, sometimes you see that certain
ideas are not at all plausible. Putting Internet access into our nation’s
schools is an excellent idea, but do we really need it? Considering that all
major and most minor colleges offer a wide range of Internet services, it is not
necessary to have that same service in our public schools. Bill Clinton’s idea
of putting Internet service into every classroom in America by the year 2000 is
not realistically possible. When you look into the facts, it is obvious that
this plan has not been thought out at all, and will not be put into effect.
1 Malkin, G., and A. Marine, “FYI on Questions and Answers:
Answers to Commonly Asked ‘New Internet User’ Questions”, FYI
4, RFC 1325, Xylogics, SRI, May 1992.
2Answers to Commonly Asked “Primary and
Secondary School Internet User” Questions
Author: J. Sellers, NASA NREN/Sterling Software
3 NATIONAL CENTER FOR EDUCATION STATISTICS
E.D. TABS July 1995
4 The Whit, Rowan College paper