Omnibus education bill includes $7 million for mobile hotspots on buses: Is that best use?

According to MN Session Daily

An omnibus education bill with $56 million in additional funding for E-12 education and no funding for higher education passed the House Monday, 84-46. Rep. Jim Knoblach (R-St. Cloud) sponsors HF2749, which he said will also serve as the overarching supplemental budget bill for the House.

This includes…

$7 million for broadband expansion grants

You can hear the funds introduced at 23:45. Rep Loon talks about $7 million for hotspots on buses.

The funds for broadband were also discussed at a House Republican press conference on April 13. Someone asked about the $7 million when the Housed passed the Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee budget last week – but apparently it has surfaced here, not there.

It’s great that Representatives are thinking about ways to extend broadband to schools. The Washington Post just ran an article on how schools with “sub-par Internet access face a poor connection with modern life.” I’m not sure that hotspots on the buses are going to close the gap – especially if this is one-time funding.

Earlier this month, with the help of METN (Minnesota Educational Tech Networks), I noted that the schools need $7 million a year to cover their current broadband costs. It sounds like the money budgeted here won’t help.

I think hotspots on the schools buses is genius! I’ve written about the idea before (in MN in 2013). BUT I leave it to the local educators to decide if it’s the best fit for them. If the legislative budget only covers installation or installation and one year of service, it might create an even wider funding gap in the future. The ongoing costs can be the most expensive part of a bus wi-fi project.

The funding is great – but the stipulations might make the projects too expensive for many districts to accept.

This entry was posted in education, MN, Policy by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

I have a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. I have been interested or involved in providing access to information through the Internet since 1994, when I worked for Minnesota’s first Internet service provider. I am pleased to be a part of the Blandin on Broadband Team. I also work with MN Coalition on Government Information, Minnesota Rural Partners, and the American Society for Information Science and Technology.

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