Internet traffic jam predicted in Penticton

School district official warns it's only a matter of time until traffic comes to a halt on its information superhighway

A traffic jam is imminent on a local information superhighway, a top school official warned last week.

Internet service provided by the Okanagan Skaha School District is not the issue, secretary-treasurer Ron Shongrunden told the school board last week. The issue is the district’s hook-up to a Provincial Learning Network hub in Kelowna.

Shongrunden told the school trustees to think of the fibre optic cables the district uses for its Internet service as pipes. Those pipes can allow data to pass through at a rate of 10 gigabytes per second. However, the pipe out of Kelowna is much smaller and allows a rate of about 0.01 gigabytes per second.

“It’s bottled up already,” he said. “We’re basically maxed out.”

At present, the district has about 3,000 Internet-connected computers online for 6,000 students and also provides for about 900 guest users, Shongrunden continued, and the demand will grow rapidly as students acquire more Internet-capable devices and teachers make greater use of online resources in their classrooms.

“Imagine when people start using it to their full potential,” he said.

Shongrunden added that the provincial government’s new B.C. Education Plan calls for more personalized learning that will rely on technology to reach students, and the backbone to fully realize that goal isn’t yet in place, even in his district, which is among the best-wired in the province.

Trustee Tracy St. Claire asked what will happen when the district’s Internet connection finally does reach maximum capacity, but Shongrunden didn’t have an answer.

“Nobody really knows,” he said, adding Okanagan Skaha will probably be the first school district in the province to face the problem.

Shongrunden provided the information to the board as an update only and trustees agreed it’s an issue on which they should lobby government.