The battle for broadband in our schools is on. Broadband is the fiber cabling that allows schools to connect to the internet, to the Arkansas Department of Education and to have enough bandwidth in their schools to run administrative functions without having to stop academic use. It will also provide enough bandwidth to insure that online testing and even online delivery of courses is possible.
Benjamin Hardy wrote about this issue at some length on Tuesday.
This issue primarily affects rural districts and low-income areas of the state. It came to a head yesterday when the Senate and House Education Committees received the report of the Quality Digital Learning Study (QDLS) Committee. The report recommended that schools in these rural and unserved areas of the state be allowed to connect to an existing network already in place connecting Arkansas’s public universities, hospitals and some law enforcement facilities.
The corporate providers of this cable and their army of lobbyists don’t want that to happen. They want schools to be required to pay for a duplicate system of fiber cabling at great expense to the taxpayers of Arkansas who support our schools. Legislators have to decide whether to change the law providers crafted to keep public schools off the system or to provide enough funding to pay for the duplicate system. No one is sure what the duplicate system will costs though providers have been asked for that information.
Broadband is an educational adequacy issue. Access to broadband is an essential component of providing an adequate education. It is also an essential component of a fundamental opportunity to learn for our low-income families. Broadband is readily available although not inexpensive in the urban and suburban areas of our state. It is limited or non-existent in many other areas. Areas that don’t have access don’t have the same educational opportunities as the highly populated areas.
A child’s zip code shouldn’t limit his or her educational resources.
For more information read the report on the Arkansas Department of Education website.