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Faster internet would be a boon for schools, administrators say

Monday, March 05, 2018

Some west-central Illinois districts stand to benefit from a bill that would help bring more reliable high-speed internet to schools.

SB 2312, sponsored by state Sens. Sam McCann, Andy Manar and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, would set aside $16.3 million from the School Infrastructure Plan for the expansion of fiber-optic internet into rural schools, a move that is estimated to cost between $75,000 and $400,000 per school. This plan would trigger a four-to-one match from the federal government, resulting in more than $50 million being set aside for the project.

In a news release, McCann pointed to the important role the internet plays in most school curricula.

“We can’t expect our children to compete for jobs in a 21st-century workforce with a 20th-century education,” McCann said in the release. “All students should have an accessible on-ramp to the information superhighway.”

Many schools now use the E-Rate Universal Service Program for Schools and Libraries to reduce internet-access costs. Realistically, though, many schools are limited when it comes to their options for fast internet. E-Rate data suggest around 100 districts in the state have at least one school that doesn’t have access to high-speed fiber connections.

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