New Mexico Schools Close in on Fiber-Fast Internet Goals
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Almost two years after announcing plans to bring high-speed internet to every classroom by 2018, the governor of Next Mexico said 99 percent of the state's public schools now have access to broadband, primarily through fiber optic connections; the costs have dropped by 60 percent. Governor Susana Martinez tapped into $49 million of state funding along with federal E-rate dollars to purchase, upgrade and install the high-speed internet access for schools throughout New Mexico, which now reaches an additional 110,000 students.
In 2015, when the Broadband for Education (BB4E) initiative was originally announced, 89 percent of schools had state-of-the-art internet. By the time of a mid-summer "progress check" this year, 96 percent of traditional schools had connected to fiber; half of the remaining schools were estimated to have upgraded in fiscal year 2017. The upgrade also encompassed purchase of new WiFi network equipment to run inside schools.
Among the "success stories" shared by state leaders, Cuba Independent School District doubled its bandwidth from 100 Mbps to 200 Mbps, dropped its cost by $2,600 per month and gained the option to increase to 500 Mbps for the same rate. The goal statewide for BB4E is to have in place connections in place that are capable of delivering 1 Mbps per student in every school. Reaching this has involved a mix of construction projects and harder negotiation with internet service providers through statewide pricing agreements.
"Giving students and teachers reliable access to high-speed internet has never been more important," said Public Education Secretary Christopher Ruszkowski in a prepared statement. "This is great news for our kids — they deserve the tools they need to achieve their dreams."
"Working closely with Governor Martinez and her BB4E program, we have made incredible progress in connecting New Mexico's public school districts during the past two years," added Evan Marwell, CEO at EducationSuperHighway, an organization that monitors U.S. state and district progress in broadband goals. "The FCC's E-rate program has also been crucial in giving New Mexico's schools the funds that they need to attain high-speed Internet access. Together, we are continuing to move the needle forward and are thrilled that we'll be able to meet the connectivity goals of the program next fall."
Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.