Educational CyberPlayGround ®☰ Menu

WIFI Wireless Wide Area Networks for School Districts by Dave Hughes

The spectrum known as the Instructional Television Fixed Service (ITFS)
was assigned for formal educational use more than thirty-five years ago.

More than 1,200 school districts, colleges, universities and other educational institutions use ITFS systems.
Out of the multitude of uses for which the FCC licenses spectrum, ITFS is the only spectrum specifically allocated for formal education. ITFS licenses were highlighted in the FCC Interim Report released in November 2000 as a key opportunity for rural areas to gain wireless broadband Internet access.

There is a unique public-private partnership that many of our institutions have with private companies developing high speed, wireless broadband services in the Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS) spectrum band located near ITFS.

ITFS licensees have spectrum capacity leasing arrangements with commercial MDS operators in order to create efficient, shared network arrangements. From these arrangements schools gain the revenue, improved infrastructure and equipment and technical support needed for the development and maintenance of their systems, while commercial MDS operators gain additional spectrum capacity to complete their networks.

Colorado Springs' School District 20, completed installation of a state-of-the-art wireless wide-area network linking 24 buildings over an area greater than 100 square miles. The system is much less expensive than a wired network would have been, and faster to boot.

Wireless Wide Area Networks for School Districts
National Institute of Building Sciences
1090 Vermont Ave., NW Suite 700, Washington, D.C. 20005
Toll free: 888-552-0624 · (202) 289-7800 ·
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education
2.4GHz and 5.8 GHz is the wireless spectrum where the cell phones operate
EEE has recently approved the 802.11g standard, which permits transmission rates of 54 Mb/s and makes wireless wide area networks more viable than ever. This standard is backwardly compatible with the existing 802.11b standard, and it will usher in many new products that harness the increased speed.
For schools, the primary advantage of IEEE 802.11b and subsequent standards is fast communication between buildings with no recurring costs other than periodic maintenance expenses. That means installation costs can be amortized within a year or two in most cases by eliminating fees to telephone companies.
Schools and universities already hold licenses to the airwaves for educational television to high-tech businesses for high-speed Internet and wireless uses. Spectrum licenses can be used to create high-speed internet access across communities. These licenses could be used for services that would allow schools to become network hubs for their community. They would be able to bypass the high-cost "Broadband" networks offered via Cable modems and DSL, providing rich local networks *without a monthly subscription fee*, at merely at the cost of equipment.

Dave Hughes
6 North 24th Street Colorado Springs, CO 80904
Voice 719.660-5764 Fax 719-636-1940
Wireless Web >

[ . . .what the e-rate can and cannot go for ... you would know that schools may NOT use E-rate money to buy FCC Part 15 radios, which, when connected BETWEEN school buildings across a city, can link ALL classrooms to the main school building at T-1 speeds and higher at ZERO monthly cost. Instead of the gouging they now get from the telcos charging for the T-1s, AND all through the summer months when school is out.

Just call up the Networking guru of School District 20, in Colorado Springs, who faced connecting up all 25 of his buildings to their central building at T-1 speeds, not only to go to the outside net, but also to give all classrooms access to the digital central library  resources. US West bid $1.5 MILLION to just connect them up, and THEN $12,000 a MONTH forever to keep them up. Or $2.9 MILLION for the first 10 years. While Dave Hughes a one man wireless company bid $601,000, connected up the high schools at 10mbps and all the middle and elementary schools at 2mbps

- faster than T-1, with short range microwave, and spread spectrum no licence radios. i.e. a hell of a lot faster (ever hear of the 'bandwidth issue everyone at the FCC is running around in circles about?) than the T-1s of US West. 10 year cost? $601,000! versus $2.9 Million. That was 5 years ago - and the system is running fine. And today ALL the school buildings could be linked at 11Mbps with central radios costing $2,000 and school-end radios costing $395 each!

Now you just pull out your little calculator and multiply THOSE economics by the 16,000 school districts and 84,000 schools, AND 15,000 public libraries in this country and figure out how much it would cost ONE TIME to do it the way District 20 did it, rather than every school district in the nation being forced to come back and ask for the SAME e-rate subsidy EVERY YEAR to fill the pockets of the Telephone Companies, out of the pockets of the Rate Payers! But only because of that one rule, prohibiting districts from buying 1 time radios, microwaves, or even satellite ground-stations, hundreds and hundreds of millions of rate payer money is being pissed away UNNECESSARILY.
This was done BEFORE the e-rate out of their own school budget, from local taxpayer money. IF they tried to do the same thing today they COULD NOT USE E-RATE MONEY TO SAVE $2.3 MILLION of rate-payers money. Because the FCC, in their idiocy, prodded by the Telcos, made the rule, which ONLY enriches the Telephone companies. By the SIMPLIST extension, using radios that can deliver higher bandwidth to the student, teacher, home from the school, with the District boundaries, tham the telcos can, and do it EVERYWHERE (which the telcos cannot and will not) the problems of educational connectivity can be solved at one stroke.
And IF the FCC was as 'concerned' - about the 'digital divide,' or 'have-nots' or 'rural or high cost' schools - about connectivity as the number of crocodile tears they shed over it, they would take the bag off their heads, smell the coffee, and see the possibilities in technologies that could permit an HISTORIC shift from voice and data connectivity as a 'service' industry, to voice and data connectivity as a 'device' industry, where all the money that now goes into recurring cost services over ancient technologies, into devices that can deliver free connectivity with present and future digital wireless technologies. . . . .]


1. Start in your own backyard, it's about where you live, so start small, start there.

Wherever there is an economic problem start by asking How Much Are you Paying Right Now by connecting with broadband or T-1 for the service you are using and then you can compare the prices for what are you paying right now - how much does is cost in dollars and cents - NOW to DOING IT WIRELESS

Try to imagine if you were to do this same thing wireless - Can you go from the 1st school/schoolroom to the room next next door to all the rooms on that floor? to the next floor in that same school? to all the rooms on that floor? tothe whole school? to the next school building in your district a few miles away? and have that whole school connected? and on and on throughout the district?

Dave recommends reading Building Wireless Community Networks By Rob Flickenger
Implementing the Wireless Web

2. get a map that shows the boundaries of your school district

3. measure from the edge of the district to the main school (IS IT IN THE CENTER OF THE DISTRICT?) mark on the map how far apart are all the school from each other

3. try to tackle this 1 bite (byte :-) at a time - if you went district by district eventually you would get the whole state done, but probably not in your lifetime unless your name is Moses, but then this is kind of like being Moses so . . . if you want get a map of all the 16,000 school districts and see the boundries

KE comment:

approach your local University who already pays for T-1 and Broadband and Cable internet access used by faculty and students. They have money from the State and the Feds for this. They have a campus, that uses wire and wireless technology now. They give lip service to the surrounding community they dwell in that they are good neighbors. So . . .




The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is working on a project to bring wireless high-speed Internet access to residents of poor areas in Detroit. Commercial ISPs often bypass less affluent urban areas due to an expected lack of return on the investment required to establish necessary infrastructure. Working with nonprofits and religious institutions in the area, the Center for Urban Innovation at the university's School of Social Work hopes to bring wireless access to Detroit's poor communities for as little as $100 per year, per customer. In addition to high-speed access, residents of affected areas will also be able to take computer-training courses. The project involves setting up several large antennas as well as smaller repeaters to cover currently unserved areas. According to Larry M. Gant, director of the project, wireless was chosen because of its relatively low cost. Gant also defended the technology as being fairly simple to secure, as long as people take the time to lock down their systems. Chronicle of Higher Education, January 20, 2004



*FCC Changes Some E-Rate Rules*
On April 23, 2003 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ruled that any E-Rate applicant or service provider who is convicted of criminal violations or held civilly liable for E-Rate misconduct would be banned from participating in the program for three or more years. The FCC also ruled that wireless services are eligible for support to the same extent as wired services and that voice mail is eligible for E-rate discounts. The FCC authorized the Universal Service Administrative Company to develop "a pilot program to create an online list of eligible equipment to wire schools." A public forum scheduled for May 8 to explore E-Rate Rate issues. E-rate started in 1998. Schools and Libraries eligible services list


The e-rate rule has made all this ok to do since 1996:

1) The School / School district uses e-rate money, to find several ISPs' who will bid on the wireless project. The ISP can simply be the business that does the line of sight survey, buys all the radios, antennas, & labor to install and hook everything up to make it happen.

2) The Line of Sight Survey costs around $300.00
Starting From the University - they would get on the roof and look at the school then actually test to see if the signal from the university will reach the school and be a strong one.

3) The kind of radio the ISP needs to buy is called a  SMARTBRIDGE RADIO and it sells for under $300 This is where they are sold.



4) Every school is going to need what is called a CLIENT RADIO
which is really a $65 dollar card that slides into a laptop or into the back of a regular computer or can also be an external SMARTBRIDGE RADIO
LINKSIS ROUTER IS AN ACCESS POINT AND A RADIO (takes the power off the usb port off the back of the computer doesn't need an independent supply)

You may need to find a relay point to get a good signal that means - if i beam the signal off of the highest building at the university towards the school it may not be able to get there if there are things in the way like trees or buildings, so now we need to deal with


1) Small plate antenna stuck on the University tall building beaming the signal
2) 24 db Directional antenna on the school that is - 5 feet tall and reaches 20 miles
3) Or an omni rod sticks up 36 inches and gets a signal for 1/2 mile

Old Signal Strength problems are over now. It used to be that the antenna has a cable that carries the signal down the wall to the radio which caused a loss of strength
Equation: Power of your radio
- minus the loss in the cable signal
+ add the power of the antenna
= the best you could hope for

Now we put the radio next to the antenna in a little waterproof box it is called POWER OVER ETHERNET [POE] the ethernet cable carries power and plugs into the wall then the other cable comes in and plugs to the computer Outdoor Access Point Radio is the SMARTBRIDGE RADIO





Colorado's "cursor cowboy"
helps schools go wireless and save money

  • School District Connection Scenarios Wireless Connection to a School Building 1996
  • Implementing a Wireless Solution 1996

Intel, Proxim, Others Back the WirelessMAN April 8, 2003
802.11-networks are called Wi-Fi because they've got the Wi-Fi Alliance to push the standard and its interoperability. But what does 802.16, better known as WirelessMAN (Metropolitan Area Network) fixed wireless broadband, have?
WirelessMAN 802.16, which was initially approved in April 2002 by the IEEE provides up to 50 kilometers of range. It has a single-carrier modulation scheme that operates between 10 and 66GHz radio frequency and requires line-of-sight towers for the connection to work. The new 802.16a extension was ratified by the IEEE in January this year (thus the recent flurry of activity for WiMAX) and uses a lower frequency range of 2 to 11GHz. It doesn't need line-of-sight to work.
For throughput, LeBrecque says, "because 802.16a covers 2-11 GHz bands, it has variable channel bandwidth. 802.16 works in both licensed and unlicensed. You must be able to have flexible channel bandwidth. That directly determines throughput."
802.16 will be a potential competitor to any broadband connection for homes or businesses, from DSL/Cable on up to T1s, and likely cost much less to deploy to multiple users since cables won't be run. While 802.16 and 802.11/Wi-Fi are not compatible -- expect 16 to be used as Internet/ISP network backhaul to hotspots -- LeBrecque says
" We believe that now that a standard is in place, integration like having a laptop connect directly to the Man, may be achieved."
A typical 802.16 setup would include a base station about the size of a pizza box mounted on a building or tower at the ISP that establishes a signal with a smaller subscriber unit at the home or business. The subscriber unit could be mounted out doors for best throughput, or even brought inside a building for potential self-installations to avoid truck rolls.
The upcoming 802.16b specification will add Quality of Service (QoS) to WirelessMAN and increases the spectrum used between 5 and 6GHz bands. An 802.16e specification for broadband mobility is also in the beginning stages.
" With the completion of the [16a] specification in January, there's a lot of excitement," says LaBrecque. "In terms of WiMAX, we've had seven new members join since January. We think 802.16 is the next big thing in wireless."

Wireless Project
How to get schools connected using radio waves.
Look Mom No Stupid Wires - and I've got the internet -
and it's free!!! And YOU can do this too :-)

WACA n. Wireless Access Computing Area (pronounced "wa-ca"). An area of a campus equipped with transmitters and receivers that allow people to connect computers to the campus network using wireless technology.

The High Performance Research and Education Network (HPWREN)
is overcoming geographical, social and technical barriers to bring high-speed Internet access to the La Jolla and Pala tribes. In remote San Diego County, HPWREN's 45Mbps (million bits per second) wireless backbone connects the low-lying San Diego coastline with the county's mountainous eastern region, home of the La Jolla and Pala Native American reservations.

The FCC's Part15 Rules and Regulation and 802.11b emissions in the ISM 2.4GHz Band By Tim Pozar - for the Bay Area Wireless User Group

You may be able to be able to build your own antenna:

List of Friendly ISP's who don't mind the wireless community

Other Wireless Communites

The FCC's Technological Advisory Council
The purpose of the TAC is to provide technical advice to the Federal Communications Commission and to make recommendations on the issues and questions presented to it by the FCC. For further information, contact Jeffery Goldthorp at 202-418-1096 voice, 202-418-2989 TTY, 202-418-1944 FAX, or

New Rules 5/15/03
"The new rules would allow companies to rent out unused spectrum for short or long periods of time and is designed to promote more efficient/flexible use of existing spectrum. While we support flexibility and secondary markets, the Order is part of a pattern whereby the FCC usurps Congressional authority -- and steadily transfers the value of the public airwaves as a windfall to incumbents, constraining as well the government's future ability to change license rights to accomodate greater unlicensed sharing responsible for WiFi and low-cost wireless last-mile connections. Services like fixed wireless - that never paid for spectrum access - can now become absentee landlords and collect rents while paying nothing back to the public." ~ Michael Calabrese

We know that K-12 schools are in a tough fight for bandwidth. What K-12 school districts have rights to ITFS? Who is the state ITFS expert that has the facts on what we have in place?

Examples of physical networks include
- statewide IP networks connecting colleges and schools,
- provision of Internet access,
- satellite and land-based ETV networks, and
- leased-line ITV networks.

Examples of network applications/resources include  academic library network services connecting college libraries to each other and to common databases using the statewide IP network,
- an electronic classroom system consisting of a set of appropriately equipped classrooms connected to the statewide IP network,
- ITV network,
- ETV network, and
- community college satellite learning network consisting of appropriately equipped classrooms, support personnel, and programming using the state's general-purpose public broadcasting system.

Read all about the e-rate abuse in Atlanta and you'll understand why schools should go wireless

© Educational CyberPlayGround ® All rights reserved world wide.