There’s a recommendation running around that seems to say that a 1:1 school environment should have 100kbps of Internet bandwidth. As of today I’ve seen this statistic repeated by some high-up members of the education structure in my state.

It’s wrong.

The original study that looked at bandwidth requirements for 1:1 schools didn’t recommend 100kbps. What they said was for every one thousand students, you would need a minimum of 100mbps. Minimum. They are clear that this is not an optimal level. This is a much larger number than I’ve seen quoted.

Here’s what I know: having been 1:1 for nearly two years, with a student population just under 1100, we spent the first year at 50mbps. It required that we throttle (cripple, really) downloads from several domains. Apple consumes massive amounts of bandwidth- between app downloads, iOS updates and the like, it alone could easily saturate out entire connection. We had to kill Pandora entirely, and limit several other services.

This year, we moved to a 400mbps connection. It’s lots better- we aren’t throttling anymore, and its much more useable. That said, we are still capable of saturating our connection for extended periods. We’ve also brought another 850 devices online. Also, and to be clear, we allow outside devices to hop on our network. At the high school, that means an average day sees 4200 devices on the wifi. It turns out we aren’t 1:1, we are 4:1. Who knew?

We’d like to source a 1gbps connection- we’ve even looked into pricing and whatnot. It’d cost us a bit over $100,000 a year, assuming anyone would actually sell us such a service. But the reality is that there’s o such hung as enough bandwidth. It can’t be overdone because the presence of more effectively creates the demand that consumes it. It’s a lot like traffic. Adding another lane to a congested road doesn’t actually ease the traffic; rather, the traffic increases to use the available road space.

My advice is this: buy as much as your budget will possibly allow. Make it a priority and not an afterthought. Understand it will, sooner or later, become a restriction. Understand that your users will be immediately unforgiving and upset about this restriction. Have a plan for that. Make that plan public.