N.W.T. school boards monitor internet usage to gauge genuine need

The N.W.T. Department of Education is monitoring internet traffic in schools across the Northwest Territories to gauge use, and determine how much bandwidth schools need.

Device will monitor each school’s internet traffic, and what sites users visit

The N.W.T. Department of Education is monitoring internet usage in many schools across the territory.

If you have a child in school in the Northwest Territories, his or her internet usage is likely being monitored.

Yellowknife Education District No. 1 (YK1) school board superintendent Metro Huculak said the Department of Education, Culture and Employment (ECE) is monitoring internet usage in schools across the territory. They're using what's called a Meraki device to monitor the amount of internet traffic each school uses, and what sites users are visiting.

The idea is to determine how much existing internet use is appropriate to an education setting, and then how much bandwidth schools need to match that appropriate use.

In Yellowknife, one school from each of the three school boards is being monitored: St. Patrick High School, Sir John Franklin High School, and École Allain St-Cyr. All schools outside the territory's capital are expected to be monitored as well.

"They [ECE] want to ensure that there is enough internet [bandwidth] for all of the schools for the academics and so on," Huculak said. "And then they may need to expand the amount of internet the schools would have if it's being used in the appropriate way."

Yellowknife Education District No.1 school board superintendent Metro Huculak says the internet use in schools is being monitored to determine how much bandwidth is really needed. (Randall Mackenzie/CBC)

Huculak says school boards have previously told the Department of Education they need more bandwidth.

"We're using the internet more and more," said Martin Male, manager of information technology services for YK1. "More bandwidth is required. When you're sharing bandwidth it just slows things down."

The devices will also help with content filtering, like blocking inappropriate websites. Male says the schools can tailor the filters to meet individual internet policies, similar to what they've been doing already through the Department of Education.

The monitoring began on Dec. 1.