New partnerships and grant funding are improving connectivity for schools in the state, particularly in remote areas.
A historic Colorado school house (Getty Images)
An effort to increase high-speed internet in Colorado schools is showing promising results after its first year.
The state now reports that an initiative to evaluate schools for increased broadband investment has been able to delivery huge cost savings and faster internet speeds to rural school districts. The initiative, called Kids Link Colorado, was formed in September 2016 through partnership between Gov. John Hickenlooper, the Office of Information Technology and EducationSuperHighway, a consultancy and research nonprofit focused on promoting internet availability.
In Julesburg, a small city located in north eastern part of the state, officials say the school district was able to increase its broadband bandwidth by 200 percent while simultaneously shrinking the district's monthly broadband bill by $1,400.
“What a difference faster internet speeds have on the entire school district,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “Everyone benefits! Students have an easier time doing research and homework. Teachers can bring fresh and new lessons into the classroom. All of this while the district saves money."
Though there are more than 1,300 schools that have fiber connectivity in the state, there are 46 schools that lack connectivity and most of them are located in remote parts of the state. Kids Link Colorado is helping schools to "leverage their buying power" with support from state to close the rural connectivity gap. One way districts can do this is through the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant, a program the state says can provide funds for special construction projects.
While more than 1,300 schools across Colorado currently have fiber infrastructure, 46 schools remain to be connected, with most of those in rural and small town communities. But the BEST grant is helping school districts and charter schools to recover some of the costs of special construction projects, while EducationSuperHighway is providing free procurement consulting and informational tools to guide broadband improvements.
Currently, 39 school districts have taken advantage of Kids Link, and Hickenlooper says he wants to increase that number with additional participation in 2018.
EducationSuperHighway reports that there are 6.5 million students without high-speed internet.
“We commend the governor’s commitment to ensuring that every student in Colorado has the high-speed connectivity necessary to take advantage of the opportunities that technology has to offer," said Evan Marwell, the group's founder and CEO.