There is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for underserved Local Education Agencies (LEAs) in Arizona looking to expand their broadband access. Through the Arizona K-12 Broadband Upgrade Program, LEAs will have the opportunity to have this access at potentially no cost.
Currently, only six percent of Arizona schools meet the target of $3 per MB for internet access. Furthermore, many schools in the state’s most rural areas cannot access fast enough internet to support digital learning.
Arizona’s vision is for schools statewide 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. 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.
As part of the Arizona K-12 Broadband Upgrade Program, ADE will be working with LEAs to make the most of the E-Rate dollars available them. Already, the E-Rate program has assisted 3.2 million students, improved the infrastructure of 2,229 buildings and benefitted 545 schools in Arizona.
As of 2008, the state was able to procure just 33 percent of its requested E-Rate funds, receiving only about $60 million of nearly $180 million in funding requests. Due to its performance in recent years, that number has now increased to roughly 90 percent, allowing technology to reach more Arizona students than ever before.
Now, due to changes in the E-Rate rules and regulations, as well as assistance from the nonprofit organization EducationSuperHighway, there is no better time for an LEA in Arizona to dramatically increase its infrastructure and receive internet build-outs at potentially no cost. However, the window for this access will close in the near future if LEAs don’t act immediately.
Already, many LEAs are looking to capitalize on this opportunity. Recently, Yavapai County has decided to band together to form a consortium of schools interested in ascertaining broadband access. An estimated 125 schools have assembled in that region to make the application process and the costs more beneficial for the entire consortium.
The hope is for other counties or regional areas to follow Yavapai’s lead in order to decrease work and expenses. The process for accessing for these opportunities is already simple, so LEAs do not have to complete much work to receive this extraordinary benefit.
Here are the steps an LEA must follow to get started:
1. Schedule a call with EducationSuperHighway by December 1, 2016 (the group has donated a team of network and procurement experts to work with Arizona LEAs to support broadband upgrade projects) at www.tinyurl.com/arizonateam.
2. Fill out a 470 form (ADE can support E-rate filing questions and EducationSuperHighway can help prepare an RFP that is easy for providers to respond to)
3. Evaluate bid responses in accordance with E-Rate rules and make award the chosen vendor.
4. File E-Rate form 471 by the deadline (has not been announced yet).
It would be unfortunate for LEAs to miss this chance to better support their students, school and community for years to come. This opportunity may not come along again in Arizona. For those LEAs and schools interested, please feel free to contact EducationSuperHighway Outreach Coordinator Alyssa Cubello at [email protected] or State E-Rate Controller for Schools Milan Eaton at [email protected] for any additional information or questions.