New legislation sponsored by State Sen. Sam McCann (R-Plainview) would offer significant help to schools struggling with unreliable and slow internet.
“Too many of our schools are unable to obtain reliable, high-speed internet access, leaving their schools on the wrong side of a digital education divide,” said Senator McCann. “This legislation is a promise to students that we will do everything in our power to make sure they have access to the tools they need to succeed.”
The bipartisan plan was introduced at Capitol press conference by chief sponsors McCann and Senators Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood). The plan sets $16.3 million aside from the School Infrastructure Fund for the expansion of high-speed internet to rural schools and school infrastructure costs related to the expansion. The legislation would qualify the state for funding matched three to one by the federal government. Cost estimates show that adding broadband to rural schools could cost from $75,000 to more than $400,000 per school.
“We can’t expect our children to compete for jobs in a 21st century workforce with a 20th century education,” said Senator McCann. “All students should have an accessible on-ramp to the information super highway.”
The legislation is part of larger push from Senator McCann to make high-speed internet accessible to schools, families and businesses in rural areas. He is also the sponsor of legislation that would increase the standards for current rural internet providers.
“The internet is how information flows in today’s world, whether it be for educational purposes or commerce,” said Senator McCann. “”Fast, reliable broadband is a major part of the infrastructure that we rely on to improve our communities. Schools need it for curriculum, businesses rely on it to conduct transactions, just as an adult taking classes at their local college needs access to help them improve their chances for future employment.”