Friday, September 12, 2014

Streaming Audio and iBoss

By now, many of you have encountered our new web filter, iBoss, which I introduced in the May Technology Blog. If you are frustrated because your favorite site is newly blocked, please read on.

BVSD uses a web filter to comply with the federal Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA). While our previous filter was marginally adequate, it didn’t provide the level of service that we required. 
Our filtering is most restrictive at the elementary level and more open in grades 6-12. Staff members have the option to temporarily override iBoss using their BVSD credentials. If you feel that a website should be permanently unblocked for all staff and students, please submit an IT Service Request and the site will be reviewed. To date, approximately 25 websites have been unblocked. It is important that you submit IT Service Requests so we can tailor iBoss for our district’s needs while meeting the requirements of CIPA.

The elephant in the room - why did we block streaming audio such as Spotify, Pandora, and iTunes radio?

The district has limited resources to procure Internet services. During the last school year we paid to increase district bandwidth from 750 MB to a maximum of 1 GB. At the end of last school year, roughly one-third of our Internet bandwidth was being used by streaming audio services. Now that many of our educational tools and assessments are online, it is critical that our bandwidth is available for these services.

I realize that many of you use streaming audio sites throughout the day, and while it is inconvenient to find work-arounds, doing so benefits everyone. Staff members can override the block on streaming audio sites for two hours at a time. This prevents “runaway streaming”. If you need uninterrupted streaming for longer than two hours, you can use your personal data plan or download music to an mp3 player and connect it to your classroom’s audio-visual (projector) system.

The long-term solution to our streaming audio issue is to upgrade the equipment, thereby allowing us to increase our bandwidth. The barrier is a 6-figure price tag. Funding to make this improvement is included in the facilities masterplan that will go to the voters in November. Once we can upgrade our equipment and increase the bandwidth, we will revisit the streaming audio block.

I hope this sheds some light on the current state of the iBoss web filter, its challenges, and our expectations for the future. Please log in to chime in with your comments below.