Montana Governor Steve Bullock today joined Woodman School officials and students in Lolo to celebrate the approval of a $2 million investment to give Montana schools the opportunity to enhance broadband and develop 21st century classrooms.
“Providing our students with access to high-quality digital learning helps set them up for success in our increasingly digital world,” said Governor Bullock. “As a predominantly rural state, we need to work even harder to make sure that our students have the high-speed Internet that they need to flourish. This investment is the result of collaboration between state government, the service provider and school communities, and will bring us even closer to closing the connectivity gap in our state’s schools.”
The funds, included in House Bill 390, create a state match to leverage broadband funds available through the FCC’s E-rate program. This fund will enable schools, like Woodman School, to upgrade their broadband to facilitate digital learning in the classroom. HB 390 provides K-12 schools with $2 million in funding over the next two years to upgrade their broadband infrastructure. 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.
With Governor Bullock’s support, Montana has helped school districts statewide make significant upgrades in the past few years. In 2016, 15,762 students in Montana were connected to high-speed broadband and 118 school districts upgraded their broadband. In addition, 90 percent of school districts in Montana in 2016 met the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) minimum connectivity goal of 100 kilobits per second (kbps) per student, up from 78 percent in 2015.
“Woodman Elementary School has devoted countless hours and dollars to solving our connectivity issues, including maximizing our internal capabilities with little impact on upload and download speeds. I am excited for the academic opportunities broadband will offer our students,” said Erin Lipkind, Missoula County Superintendent of Schools. “We are grateful to the Montana legislature for providing much-needed matching funds, the local taxpayers for supporting our technology levy, EducationSuperhighway for their advocacy, Jeff Crews for his tireless work on our behalf, Eric Chambers at the Northwest Council for Computer Education (NCCE) for his help with our E-rate application, and the many teachers and board members, past and present, who grappled with this problem.”
HB 390 is a continuation of the Montana School Broadband Project, which was jointly launched in 2015 by Governor Bullock, the Office of Public Instruction, the School Administrators of Montana, and EducationSuperHighway, the leading non-profit focused on upgrading the Internet access in every public school classroom in America. The project committed to connecting every K-12 classroom in the state to high-speed Internet in order to support digital learning and equal opportunities for all Montana students.
“We’ve been working closely with Governor Bullock since 2015, and the signing of HB 390 into law is a huge step forward for the many schools in Montana that don’t have access to high-speed broadband,” said Evan Marwell, CEO at EducationSuperHighway. “All of this is possible because of the FCC’s E-rate program that provides K-12 schools with the funding necessary to make high-speed broadband a reality. We are thrilled to see states across the country fully leveraging and counting on these provisions to continue to bring digital learning to all students.”
EducationSuperHighway is the leading non-profit focused on upgrading the Internet access in every public school classroom in America. We believe that digital learning has the potential to provide all students with equal access to educational opportunity and that every school requires high-speed broadband to make that opportunity a reality.
We catalyze federal and state action on K-12 broadband initiatives and are currently working with governors in 20 states covering 20 million students. We work directly with school districts to accelerate network upgrades by connecting them to competitive service provider options in their areas. Our Compare & Connect K-12 online tool helps schools and service providers view broadband services and bandwidth information for school districts nationwide so they can get and deliver more bandwidth for their broadband budgets. As a non-profit, our tools and services are offered free of charge.
EducationSuperHighway is funded by national foundations including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and our mission is supported by America’s leading CEOs.