Governor Steve Bullock today visited Red Lodge High School to highlight statewide opportunities for schools to enhance broadband and develop 21st century classrooms.
“If we want our kids to compete in the 21st century economy, we need to give them a 21st century education,” said Governor Bullock. “Even our most rural schools are already using increased connectivity to improve educational opportunities and we will continue to work until all schools have the connectivity they need to be successful classrooms into the 21st century and beyond.”
Red Lodge Public Schools worked with the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway to increase their internet speeds from two 10 Mbps connections to 300 Mbps internet connection and 1 GBPS wide area network (WAN) connection.
With Governor Bullock’s support, EducationSuperHighway has helped over 40 districts like Red Lodge upgrade their internet service or make their current service more affordable. Since 2015, an additional 33,107 students in 49 school districts upgraded to the minimum recommended 100 Kbps bandwidth, up from 77% of districts in 2015 to 94% today. Of those schools, 84% are connected to fiber, up from 65% in 2015.
Schools can apply for funding made possible through House Bill 390, creating a state match to leverage broadband funds available through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) E-rate program. This fund will enable schools to upgrade their broadband infrastructure to facilitate digital learning in the classroom. HB 390 provides Montana’s public K-12 schools with $2 million in funding over the next two years to upgrade to fiber connections. When leveraged with FCC E-rate program funds and local funding, HB 390 could trigger up to $20 million in much-needed broadband investment for schools.
For more information, and to apply for the matching funds, visit http://comdev.mt.gov/Programs/Broadband.