Creating the Education Superhighway: Bettering Schools, Strengthening the Economy, & Creating Jobs

Summary

U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Dirk Adams’ plan to bring a fiber cable to every school across Montana helps build new economic infrastructure for Montana and the U.S. 

It starts with investing in kids and schools.

The fiber will provide schools with the capacity to do streaming classrooms, or study halls where students can live stream a class about something they want to learn as an elective. Students also can experience language lessons with a native speaker who lives in another country, and in the process be exposed to another’s culture perspective, a privilege formerly exclusive to those who could afford travel.

But this is also about jobs. Laying one mile of fiber creates 6-7 jobs. Professional staff will be needed to support the schools. Education professionals will train teachers. Networking staff will serve as a tech infrastructure. The effort will create jobs for installers and network engineers resulting in at least 1000 new jobs paying $50,000 - $70,000/yr. But that’s just the beginning. It builds the foundation for more jobs up the road.

Beyond the initial job creation and expanded learning opportunities for our kids, once the fiber cable gets into the school, it can work as a bandwidth anchor for the town. Telephone companies can split off the fiber and start serving it to local businesses and consumers. The strategy also will ready Montana and the rest of the country for the sweeping transformation in medicine coming as a result of biotech.

Technological advances in medicine have historically raised the cost of health care. But being able to monitor on your smartphone what used to require hospitals and intensive care units will lower health spending.

All this can grow from investing in our kids and our schools.

But building infrastructure is no small endeavor. It takes action and support at the federal level.

Based on numbers from capital markets research firms and Google Fiber, connecting Montana schools, medical centers, and other hubs will cost an estimated $2 billion, including installation of fiber and routers, wireless modems, and security equipment. Nationwide, the effort would cost about $150 billion.

But we have to do it. Currently, the U.S. ranks 13th globally for our connectivity. The endeavor can be made economical along the way with private-public partnerships, no interest loans, and guaranteed rate contracts. Google Fiber is already making such investments. However, Montana doesn’t have the population density that will make Google Fiber step in. Montana, and other more rural states, should not be left behind. Nor should the U.S. 

What are we waiting for?

 

Full report

From Dirk Adams:

Investing in our kids is investing in our future. It’s a fact often reduced to a buzz phrase. But I’m going to show you how this is real, and how the future isn’t far away, and how investment in kids can benefit local, state, and national economies.

A priority of mine as Montana’s Senator will be to connect a fiber cable to every school across Montana as part of the new economic infrastructure we need to build in Montana and in our country. I’ve been talking with the Montana Telecommunications Association (MTA) for several months on what needs to happen here in Montana and what kind of support is necessary from the federal level to achieve this goal. The MTA has launched the ConnectMT™ initiative whose goal is to deliver up to gigabit broadband speeds to our State’s schools and libraries and other community anchor institutions by 2020.

Butte is already leading the way. A partnership between the school district and the Montana Economic Revitalization and Development Institute (MERDI) has resulted in public and private grants to get high-speed fiber into the public schools.  They are serving as a great model for what’s possible. Bozeman, too, is advancing a broadband plan.

The Montana Office of Public Instruction has done a great job in putting together information on Montana’s bandwidth inventory, but we need more. Then, we can determine the best fiber routes, maximize what we have, finish those critical “last miles,” and complete the construction of a pipeline I can believe in.

Fiber is 100 times faster than broadband and can handle unlimited loads.  Major tech companies and innovation non-profits are already pressing ahead with fiber. Montana (and major parts of America) are being and will continue to be left behind if we do not act promptly and comprehensively.

 

Improving Education

Currently, and generally speaking, about 75% of Montana schools have internet into the building.  Wireless is far more limited.  The average Montana school has about the same internet access as the average Montana home.  The problem of course is that the average Montana school has a far bigger population that the average Montana household of 2.7 people.  The result is severely constrained internet access. 

Education, with fiber, lays the foundation for a more robust, engaging, personalized educational experience for all of our children.  “Blended” learning, utilizing resources already available in the half-dozen or more ‘computer academies,’ including iTunes U, in combination with mentoring and individual instruction from Montana’s excellent teachers, gives students the opportunity to learn more dynamically and each at their own speed, on their own access device, and with a recognition, where appropriate, of their particular interests. 

The fiber will provide schools with the capacity to do streaming classrooms, or study halls where students can live stream a class about something they want to learn as an elective. Students also can experience language lessons with a native speaker who lives in another country, and in the process be exposed to another’s culture perspective, a privilege formerly exclusive to those who could afford travel.

There are non-profit organizations developing free, open source software that teachers can use to model concepts for math, science, and engineering education.  With new technology tools, we can have a much greater ability to allow students to self-pace with the assistance of teachers who can assess when students achieve mastery of material and are ready to move on to higher levels.

 

Jobs: Installation and Network Technicians

But there are benefits beyond the classroom. Laying one mile of fiber creates 6-7 jobs. Professional staff will be needed to support the schools. Education professionals will train teachers. Networking staff will serve as a tech infrastructure. The effort will create jobs for installers and network engineers resulting in at least 1000 new jobs paying $50,000 - $70,000/yr.

Once the fiber cable is laid and gets into the schools, it can work as a bandwidth anchor for the town. Telephone companies can split off the fiber and start serving it to local businesses and consumers. The right fiber cable can carry unlimited bandwidth and will result in bandwidth infrastructure for the entire community, starting with our kids.

 

Jobs: Biotech

The strategy also will ready Montana and the rest of the country for the sweeping transformation in medicine that has begun and will “rival in importance the introduction of anesthesia or the discovery of the germ basis of infectious disease. It will change how patients and physicians interact. It will change medical research and therapy.”

Biotech is becoming nothing more than big data manipulation.  One can now sequence an individual’s genome for $1,000.  That is still too expensive, but it is way down from $1 million.  Individualized medicine thus becomes far more available and effective; one just has to manage the data.  Medical monitoring becomes far easier.  Grandmother does not have to drive to Billings to “see” her doctor.

“Today, all the physiological data monitored in a hospital intensive-care unit—including ECG, blood pressure, pulse, oxygenation, sugar level, breathing rate and body temperature—can be recorded and analyzed continuously in real time on a smartphone.”

As a result, digital medicine will bring down the costs of medical care. “Until now, technological breakthroughs in medicine, like MRIs, have invariably resulted in increased health-care costs.” Digital medicine is going to lower health spending significantly.  

All this can grow from investing in our kids and our schools.

 

How Do We Do It?

This plan is part of the new economic paradigm I’m proposing in my platform. It’s time to stop pitting labor against the environment. It’s not about balance between competing interests. It’s about living and working in different ways on novel enterprises.

But building infrastructure is no small endeavor. It takes action and support at the federal level. It’s one of the reasons I want to represent the people of Montana in the U.S. Senate. 

I will fight for this infrastructure in Congress. I will pursue at the very least a pilot project to build broadband infrastructure, starting with the schools.  

Montana is rural. The coal industry is dying. We have the need. We have the workers. We have a good education system that’s not afraid of change when it means getting better.

Based on numbers from capital markets research firms and Google Fiber, connecting Montana schools, medical centers, and other hubs will cost an estimated $2 billion, including installation of fiber and routers, wireless modems, and security equipment. Nationwide, the effort would cost about $150 billion.

But we have to do it. Fiber is a tool, the faster we get it, the faster we will learn how to use it even more effectively.  Butte is fortunate to have fiber to its high school.  Now it has the opportunity to learn how to use it most effectively.  All of Montana deserves that opportunity.  Remember, historians say that it took American business about 30 years to fully deploy electricity effectively.

Currently, the U.S. ranks 13th globally for our connectivity. We must invest. We can make this endeavor economical along the way with private-public partnerships, no interest loans, and guaranteed rate contracts. Google Fiber is already making such investments. However, Montana doesn’t have the population density that will make Google Fiber step in. Montana, and other more rural states, should not be left behind. Nor should the U.S.

So, where optical fiber cable is already laid in Montana, we need to turn it on and we need to build the “last mile,” the technical slang for taking the fiber from a junction box to an individual building.  Too often that last mile now is either not connected or is only connected with broadband.

 

A Foundation for the Future

Fiber makes more possible the “internet of things;” the expression used to describe the connection of the internet to machines, from thermostats to cars.  Can you imagine what Montanans, born and raised tinkerers, can accomplish?  Cisco estimates the future potential value of the internet of things at $14 trillion worldwide over the next 10 years.

Getting fiber to the schools can serve as the modern version of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA). President Franklin Roosevelt established the REA under the authority of the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935. At the time, only 10 percent of the nation’s farms had electricity. In Montana, only 5.5 percent of the farms had electricity.

The establishment of the REA resulted in the completion of "Bonneville Dam in 1938, and the creation of rural electric utilities. The number of farms with electricity more than doubled.  After WWII, Congress reduced the interest rate on REA loans to 2 percent and extended the payoff period to 35 years. In the five years following World War II, more than 2 million consumers took advantage of the loans and connected to rural electricity systems. By the early 1970s nearly all farms in the United States had electricity.

That infrastructure served us. Building new infrastructure for the modern economy can serve us just as well and better.

Beyond the initial job creation, expanded learning opportunities for our kids, and expanded, less costly medical services, fiber in all of our towns and cities, even Wilsall, means that business and households will be able to benefit from and grow with fiber. 

We can create the workforce for this endeavor with most, if not all, workers trained by our universities, colleges, two-year institutions, and even high schools. This will give Montana a base of technology workers who will attract businesses from other states keen to have our trained workers and to operate in this beautiful State.

I’ve spoken of the need to shift the Montana economy away from being energy based. This is necessary for the good of the workers in that industry whose jobs inevitably will be phased out. I don’t want Montana workers to be casualties of the coming adjustment in utilities when we can plan for a smoother transition.

We need to build new models. Send me to the U.S. Senate to represent Montana and this is where I will focus. I will work outside the stalemate, not trying to win old battles but working to build something new.

Piecemeal politics is not the answer. A comprehensive strategy is. We need to rebuild the middle class. We need a new economic infrastructure. Investing in our kids isn’t a political catch phrase. It’s the cornerstone to achieving our goals.

 

(You can learn more about building the education superhighway and how it can benefit schools here: http://www.educationsuperhighway.org/)

 

Google Fiber Project
50,000 to 500,000 people
2.6 people per household = 20,000 and 200,000 homes
$3,000 and $8,000 per home ~ $60 million to $1.6 billion
MT 1.2 billion – 3.2 billion
100,000 homes =1/2 billion
MT 400,000 homes =2 billion
Source: Ben Schachter, Internet analyst with Broadpoint AmTechat
Network Engineer: 50-75K
MT School Districts: 431
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MONTANA STATISTICS
US Census Bureau 2008-2012
2008-2012: 405,508 households
Population, 2013: 1,015,165
Persons per household: 2.37
Persons per sq. mile: 7

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Bernstein Research

https://commcenter.bresnan.net/Session/1252266-BPS8GFm51KkXp7Pp07gM-jizkevb/MIME/INBOX/46343-02-02-B/Google%20Fiber%20%20(2.20.14).pdf