A San Francisco nonprofit will be working with Virginia on a pilot program to help the state lower the cost of high-speed Internet access for schools and increase digital learning opportunities for students.
Education Super Highway, known as ESH, selected Virginia in part because the state pays more than the national average for Internet access and network connectivity and it exceeds the national average for percentage of state schools with less-than-ideal access and bandwidth.
“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 Gov. Terry McAuliffe. “I am grateful that Education Super Highway 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.”
Virginia schools’ current average megabits-per-second cost is $26 for Internet access and $7 for network connectivity, compared with respective national averages of $22 and $3.
Working with Secretary of Education Anne Holton, as well as the state’s secretary of technology and the Virginia Department of Education, ESH will identify factors and practices driving up costs for school divisions and provide technical assistance to school divisions on cutting costs by promoting transparency, encouraging competition and identifying new service options.
“Every student in Virginia deserves access to high-quality digital content,” Holton said. “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.”
Education Super Highway says the broadband pricing project will include two states, with the second state being named later this summer.
Last month, ESH and the Washington-based Consortium for School Networking called on the Federal Communications Commission to increase federal e-rate funding for schools and libraries by $800 million annually to support much-needed improvements to wireless networks. E-rate provides subsidies to school systems and libraries through fees paid by telecommunications companies.