Ferreira and Agyapong Examine Spillover Effects from Wiring Schools with Broadband

Does the usage of Internet in schools spill over society in general? The research paper entitled "Spillover Effects from Wiring Schools with Broadband: Implications for Universal Service Policy," states that the answer is yes.

The paper, written by Pedro Ferreira, faculty at Instituto Superior Técnico , and Patrick Agyapong, a Ph.D. student in Engineering and Public Policy, analyzes Portuguese data on the Internet usage in schools and by society between January 2006 and December 2008. By means of the Fundação para a Computação Científica Nacional (FCCN), Portugal completed connecting all schools to the Internet through DLS (1 Mbit/s or more) in January 2006.

"The students carry the habit of using Internet at school to other Internet access points, most notably home, where they can act as liaison to older family members and friends transferring the specific Internet related training they get in school to people that otherwise would find it hard, and perhaps useless, to obtain," said Ferreira. "[This conclusion has] deep implications for Universal Service Policy (USP) because it shows how, in the absence of such a formal policy, specific USP-like projects that fully engage local communities with telecommunication operators through the local Government can contribute to a more widespread effective adoption of broadband by society at large."

_______
Ferreira and Agyapong measured internet usage in schools by the amount of traffic through the DSL router at the school premises. The usage by population at large was measured by the amount of traffic through a carrier’s Central Offices (CO).
________

"The carrier sampled is the one that provides the DSL connection to all schools in the country who, coincidentally, has a very significant share of the broadband market in the country," explained Agyapong. "[This data was complemented] with yearly information on population density and a number of education related variables such as basic education rate, dropout rate and illiteracy rate."

Based on the results, Ferreira and Agyapong concluded that "doubling the traffic from schools yields roughly a 5% increase in the traffic through the carrier’s COs in the subsequent year." They also found that "population density is highly correlated with Internet usage by society at large and that illiteracy rate is a significant barrier to using the Internet."

Now this research team feels that it is necessary to design and administer a survey targeted at both schools and students to ask for more details about how internet has been used. This will help to learn more about how students use the Internet in schools in order to better appreciate the mechanics behind the spillover effect, and also how students carry the habit of using the Internet in the school to other access points. Another concern is to explore the panel structure of the data, because, Ferreira and Agyapong explained, "we have data on the CO traffic and on the school’s traffic on a monthly basis for the entire period of analysis, but we lack monthly data for our control variables because population density and the relevant education related variables are only measured once a year."

May 2010