by Max Brantley
Arkansas ranks near the bottom in high-speed Internet access and digital learning. A coalition of business; education leaders statewide formed FASTERArkansas at the request of Gov. Mike Beebe. The coalition believes affordable access to high-speed broadband is the key to success in the 21st century. It allows us to communicate more effectively, provides better access to public safety, and health care. It is a driver of economic opportunities and most importantly it allows us to learn.
”Arkansas already has a network in place that will allow us to create jobs, reduce costs for schools, increase competition, and provide the content essential for students to be globally competitive if K-12 schools can use it.” Jerry Jones, Chair, FASTERArkansas and Executive Vice President, Acxiom said.
Arkansas already has a taxpayer-funded infrastructure (ARE-ON) in place that could provide K-12 schools with the access to high-speed Internet it needs, but is currently not permitted by law from using it (Act 1050 of 2011). Of the 42 states that have such an Internet infrastructure that connects to Internet2, Arkansas is the only state that prohibits K-12 schools from using it.
Dr. Richard Abernathy, Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators and FASTERArkansas advocate says, “Affordable high-speed Internet is the difference between providing the great equalizer for rural and low-income students or increasing the great divide.”
Kathy Smith, Vice-Chair, FASTERArkansas and Senior Program Officer, The Walton Family Foundation states, “Lack of access to affordable high-speed Internet for schools means many children are not receiving the 21st century education they will need to succeed in the future or compete with students from across the country.”