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Arkansas Moves Toward Statewide Broadband in Schools

The state of Arkansas has joined a pilot that aims to deliver high-speed broadband to all K-12 schools.

Arkansas is now the second state to be named to the pilot program, which is being led by nonprofit EducationSuperHighway. Virginia became the first pilot state back in June of this year. ESH is an education and technology advocacy group focused on high-speed, high-capacity Internet for American schools to support digital learning.

As part of the program, the state and ESH conducted an assessment of broadband access and spending in Arkansas and determined that there's a "significant opportunity to deliver high-speed connectivity to all Arkansas students by better leveraging existing funds, working closely with the vendor community and replicating successful district models throughout the state."

That includes taking the current $15 million that's spent annually on older networks and using those funds, along with federal dollars, to build out "a high-speed fiber network" that might allow the state to "become the first state in the country to meet the national ConnectED goal of linking every student to high-speed broadband."

"Providing our schools with high-speed broadband connections is critical to preparing our students for the modern economy," said Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe in a prepared statement. "With the leadership of the Arkansas Department of Education, the General Assembly, our school districts and service providers, we can give our children the resources they need to compete and succeed."

"Arkansas is in a great position to usher in a new era of 21st-century learning for its students," said Evan Marwell, CEO of EducationSuperHighway, also in a prepared statement. "We are thrilled to partner with Governor Beebe to ensure that all classrooms across the state are equipped with high-speed Internet connections that can support digital learning."

The next step in the program will involve development of a plan to deliver broadband affordably to all schools. That plan is being worked out in conjunction with state policymakers, the vendor community and school and district leaders.

Only two states will be participating in the current round of pilots. ESH has not given word on when the pilots will be completed or when more states will be invited to participate.

About the Author

David Nagel is editorial director of 1105 Media's Education Technology Group and editor-in-chief of THE Journal and STEAM Universe. A 25-year publishing veteran, Nagel has led or contributed to dozens of technology, art and business publications.

He can be reached at [email protected]. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at or follow him on Twitter at @THEJournalDave (K-12) or @CampusTechDave (higher education).

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