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Bandwidth - Internet capacity to make IP connections

According to the English WikiPedia, in a computing context "digital bandwidth, network bandwidth or just bandwidth is a measure of available or consumed data communication resources expressed in bit/s or multiples of it (kbit/s, Mbit/s etc)." Schools have internal network speeds, as well as external connection speeds to the "commodity Internet." Some schools also have connections to other high speed networks, like Internet2. Internal network speeds today may be 10 Mbit/s (megabits per second,) 100 Mbit/s, or 1 Gbit/s (gigabits per second.) Common commodity Internet connection "pipes" or speeds for schools today are 1.5 Mbit/s (a T-1,) 3.0 Mbit/s (sometimes two "bonded" T-1 lines), and 5 to 100 Mbit/s. These higher bandwidth commodity Internet connections are generally made via fiber optic connections which can be "throttled" (turned up or down) depending on the contracted price paid by the school to an Internet Service Provider (ISP).


How do some school administrators invoke BANDWIDTH to block web 2.0 sites?

Some school administrators claim insufficient bandwidth is available on the school network to accomodate the use of specific web 2.0 sites or other software programs, including videoconferencing software/hardware like Skype.


What are actual bandwidth requirements?

Bandwidth requirements can depend on multiple factors:

  • the application being used
  • the number of simultaneous users locally and from remote sites
  • whether the local end-user is "hosting" a call or connection
  • the bandwidth settings used in the hardware or software application being used


What is the Takeaway Here?

Schools need to use hardware and/or software tools to regularly monitor bandwidth consumption. It makes sense for school administrators to deploy "smart" networking technologies which permit bandwidth to be managed as needed to meet both academic and administrative needs. Although bandwidth to the "commodity" Internet is limited in most schools, options still exist for utilizing web 2.0 technologies and other software/hardware which consumes more bandwidth than "normal" Internet use applications.


What Options Are Available?

  1. Differentiated Content Filtering: Teachers can and should be granted more permissive rights on the school network than students. When teachers log into their computer and the school network, their more permissive network access rights should be recognized and granted by the network.
  2. Scheduling Bandwidth-intensive application use: Just like many  schools have done for years with their videoconferencing equipment, schools can schedule the use of more bandwidth-intensive applications to conserve bandwidth. The network may not have enough bandwidth resources for every teacher to simultaneously have a Skype videoconference with another classroom or content provider outside the school district, but it may have enough bandwidth for five simultaneous videoconferences.
  3. Download Videos Locally (offline) for Playback: Rather than streaming web videos "live" from the commodity Internet, teachers as well as students utilizing web videos during lessons can download those videos offline (to the local hard drive) in advance of the lesson. Then, videos can be played locally rather than streaming them "live" over the commodity Internet.
  4. Obtain more bandwidth for the school: The road to the digital learning future is paved with fiber optic cabling. Ask for and obtain robust bandwidth connections for each school and classroom in your school district. As we move to a 1 to 1 computing future, where every student and teacher has a portable, wireless, Internet-capable computing device in their hands, our need for bandwidth will continue to grow by leaps and bounds.


What is the Bandwidth Consumption of My Application?

  1. Skype
    1. "How Skype Works" graphic. BusinessWeek. 1 November 2004.
    2. Skype forum discussion reveals bandwidth concerns over "supernode" issues
  2. iChat
  3. Google Video


Additional Resources Relating to Bandwidth

  1. Free Real-time NetFlow Analyzer (SolarWinds)
  2. InterMapper: Network Monitoring and Alerting Software (commercial)
  3. ipMonitor (commercial)
  4. Net-Peeker (Windows-only)
  5. Podcast71: NewNet66, InterMapper, Security Threats, and Monitoring School District Bandwidth Utilization (11 July 2006)



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