Last week, the Senate introduced a bill for more funding for broadband for schools (SF 936)…
Sec. 3. APPROPRIATIONS; K-12 BROADBAND EQUITY AID.
$9,450,000 in fiscal year 2018 and $9,650,000 in fiscal year 2019 are appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of education for K-12 broadband equity aid under Minnesota Statutes, section 125B.26.
Any balance in the first year does not cancel but is available in the second year.
Minnesota schools receive state support to help pay for the cost of high speed Internet access that remains after federal E-rate discounts have been applied. The annual appropriation for public schools was capped in 2010 and is $3.75 million. Total requests for this aid are nearing $10 million and steadily rising. the result is a proration amount of approximately 40% leaving districts to pay the remaining balance. In the graph below, the red line is state funding, the blue line is actual cost (after E-rate reimbursement) and pink is the trendline.
Internet access is mission critical for schools. Digital content, increasingly accessed over mobile devices, requires higher levels of bandwidth. Schools use the Internet in their daily operations including student instruction, food service, communications, transportation, accounting, and procurement.
Use of mobile devices has exploded over the past 2 years. This dramatic increase has severely taxed the capacities of both wireless infrastructure and bandwidth in general. Minnesota schools need to greatly expand the broadband networks serving their institutions in order to keep up with the demands of their users.
Due to many factors including lack of provider competition, distance between schools and communities, and lack of regional infrastructure, the out-of-pocket cost to provide the same type of broadband Internet service to schools in some parts of the state is as much as 115 times or more per pupil than that of districts in the Twin Cities Metro and other larger communities.
● According to the latest statistics (FY2015) from the MN Department of Education (MDE), Ivanhoe public schools in Southwestern MN pays $140.37 per pupil (after E-rate and state funding) to provide broadband Internet services to their students and staff. This is nearly 2.5% of their total per pupil general aid.
● Suburban Columbia Heights schools pay $1.20 (after E-rate and state funding) per pupil to provide broadband Internet services to their students and staff. This is 0.02% of their total per pupil general aid.
● The average per pupil cost (after E-rate and state funding) in Southwest Minnesota is $49.01 per pupil while in the Metro region, the average cost is $5.95 per pupil.