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Virginia First in Broadband Evaluation Pilot
Virginia will begin a statewide pilot program whose aim is to deliver high-speed broadband to schools while bringing costs down.
Virginia was the first of two states to be named to the pilot program, which is being led by nonprofit EducationSuperHighway. ESH is an education and technology advocacy group focused on high-speed, high-capacity Internet for American schools to support digital learning.
According to information released by ESH, Virginia's school broadband costs run significantly higher than the national average. "[A]verage monthly megabits-per-second costs for Virginia school divisions are $26 for Internet access and $7 for network connectivity, compared with respective national averages of $22 and $3," the group reported today. "ESH data also indicate that the percentage of Virginia schools with less-than-ideal access and bandwidth exceeds the national average."
The pilot program will gather reams of data on schools' use of broadband through August, then analyze the data collected to "identify factors and practices driving up costs for school divisions and provide technical assistance to school divisions on cutting costs...."
"Ensuring that all Virginia communities have equal and affordable access to broadband technology is a critical component in developing a 21st Century Virginia economy," said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, in announcing Virginia's participation in the pilot. "I am grateful that EducationSuperHighway has selected Virginia for this important project which will use transparency to drive down broadband costs and provide greater opportunities for innovative learning in classrooms across the Commonwealth."
"School divisions will have the ability to compare and evaluate prices across the state and determine whether they are getting their money's worth in access and bandwidth," said Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson "Every student in Virginia deserves access to high-quality digital content. Our strategy for closing achievement gaps must include a concerted effort at both the state and local levels to make sure that slow connection speeds and inadequate networks don't bar the way."
A second state will be named as a pilot participant later this summer, according to ESH.