Fort Smith Schools The First To Go Online Under Two-Year Broadband Push

Jul 13, 2015

Arkansas Department of Education Deputy Commissioner Dr. Mark Gotcher and State Rep. Charlotte Douglass (R-Alma).
Credit Jacob Kauffman / KUAR

Schools in Fort Smith will be among the first to benefit from Arkansas’s two-year plan to improve broadband internet access. Education officials told a joint meeting of the House and Senate Education Committees on Monday that the Fort Smith School District, as of Wednesday, will be able to provide a 200 kilobit minimum for each student.

Don McDaniel at the Department of Information Systems told state Representative Charlotte Douglass (R-Alma) that’s up from a 100 kilobit standard talked about earlier in the year.

“There is economy of scale. Once you get the connection to the school district, once you buy the connection to the internet the incremental bandwidth is pretty cheap,” McDaniel said.

He said while some schools already have sufficient bandwidth there are still a few without high speed internet of any kind.

“There are a handful that don’t have broadband, maybe five or six, that don’t have any broadband. The current FCC definition is, 25 megabits is considered broadband,” said McDaniel.

Projects to upgrade the Arkansas Public School Computer Network were awarded in late April to 22 companies. The updates to the system follow a December report showing 35 percent of Arkansas schools fall below the state Department of Education’s 100 kilobit standard. The upgrades are funded from the department’s $13 million broadband budget.