Arizona Broadband Initiative for Education With assistance from the not-for-profit EducationSuperHighway, Arizona Department of Education and Arizona State Library is working with schools and libraries to make the most of the E-Rate dollars available to them. In addition to discounts that school and libraries are eligible for through E-Rate, a state match of up to 10% was set up for expansion of connectivity. This in turn will be be matched by E-Rate at the same rate.
The Background At Schools: Currently, only 23% of Arizona school districts meet national affordability benchmarks for broadband access. Furthermore, many schools in the state’s most rural areas cannot access Internet that is fast enough to support digital learning and many other technological opportunities for students that are commonplace within urban centers. In addition to those untapped student resources, Arizona has created and made available a bevy of free or inexpensive online tools for teachers. These tools can be used for classroom instruction as well as for professional development and are not currently being utilized in many underserved areas across the state. Often times, service providers struggle to make a high enough return on investment to dedicate resources and build infrastructure out to the most remote schools.
At Libraries: 95% of our Libraries are applying for E-rate reimbursements but less than 1/2 of them at at the bandwidth that is recommended by FCC. The reason is because either the required bandwidth is not available or if available, not affordable. NDIA (National Digital Inclusion Alliance) does an annual study of the Worst Connected Cities (2016) report. In this report, the editor, Angela Siefer says “NDIA ranked all 185 U.S. cities with more than 50,000 households by the total percentage of each city’s households lacking fixed broadband internet subscriptions. Note that this data is not an indication of the availability of home broadband service, but rather of the extent to which households are actually connected to it.” This is how Arizona ranks: #65 Glendale; #72 Tucson; #79 Phoenix; #83 Mesa; #151 Peoria; #156 Tempe; #166 Chandler; #175 Scottsdale; #183 Gilbert Town. In many of these cities, our libraries are the only source of free internet access for the residents as most services move towards being online-only. The Vision: Arizona’s vision is for schools and libraries statewide is to have scalable, affordable and reliable Internet access. With access to high-speed broadband, students can take remote classes and receive digital learning opportunities that they never knew existed. Citizens can access e-governemnt, on-line resources, health information, legal and business information and more. Educators will be able to dramatically enhance their professional development capabilities and communities will be transformed by the cultural and economic benefits of simply being connected to the Internet.
The Strategy: In an effort to ensure that all students and citizens in Arizona have access to high-speed connectivity needed to support digital learning opportunities, the Governor’s Office of Education, the Arizona Department of Education, Arizona State Library, the Arizona Corporation Commission and the national non-profit EducationSuperHighway jointly launched the Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative. As part of the initiative, the Arizona Corporation Commission updated the Arizona Universal Service Fund (AUSF) rules to provide $8M in funding for “Special Construction” projects in Arizona in March 2017. In April 2017, the Arizona State Legislature approved an additional $3M for “Special Construction” projects after the AUSF funds are depleted. Used in combination with the E-rate program, this funding Requirements to apply for state matching funds required applicants to first apply for the federal E-rate program. During the 2017-2018 E-rate cycle, requests for $1.1 Million was approved in AUSF, which provided $14.4 Million in total construction projects for 84 applicants (Original amounts) During the 2018-2019 E-rate cycle, requests for $10 Million, was approved in AUSF which provided $123.6 Million in total construction funding for 160 applicants. Approximately $138M has been requested to date from Arizona E-rate Applications. Combined with the state match investment, the state projects $150M in new construction projects to support access to high-speed broadband across the state. In total, the funding supports building high speed connectivity for over 220,000 students and 2 million residents across 14 counties. Seven out of the 14 counties formed consortia to leverage economies of scale in their broadband planning, and will serve hundreds of sites throughout their respective counties. These projects open doors for students and teachers to take advantage of a range of innovative educational technologies, including distance learning opportunities, personalized learning programs, and advanced courses. It will also help nearly 2 million residents access health information, e-government, business and legal information, language leaning, connecting with friends and family through their libraries It truly takes collaboration and dedication to ensure that an initiative of this magnitude is successful. Partnership between the Governor’s Office of Education, the Arizona Department of Education, the Arizona Corporation Commission, Arizona State Library and the national non-profit EducationSuperHighway, as well as the cities, counties and schools contributed to the amazing progress, impressive growth and success over the last year. For the funding 2018-1019, Arizona Schools and Libraries requested a single year record of $194 Million in E- rate subsidies. Below is the summary of how the schools and libraries applied for the AUSF funding and E-rate funds for 2018-19:
The Arizona Broadband for Education Project team.
Arizona Corporation Commissioner - Andy Tobin
Arizona Department of Education PIO - Stefan Swiat
Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting (OSPB) Director - Matt Gress
Apache County Superintendent of Schools - Barry Williams