AZED’s Broadband Initiative Support Grows To $160 Million Total

August 29, 2023

By Daniel Stefanski |

The State of Arizona continues to invest in high-speed internet broadband in many rural communities.

On Thursday, Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Horne, issued a press release, announcing the “completion of $3.6 million in broadband projects to bring Internet fiber connectivity to Santa Cruz County.” With the Santa Cruz effort in the books, “the Arizona Department of Education has brought a total of approximately $160 million in fiber construction projects to schools and libraries in rural areas through the federal E-Rate Program in the past six years.”

Horne championed the latest development in this endeavor, saying, “With access to high-speed broadband, students can take remote classes and take advantage of digital learning opportunities. Educators will be able to dramatically enhance their professional development capabilities and communities will be transformed by the cultural and economic benefits of having a strong connection to the Internet.”

The Department revealed that “the latest project in Santa Cruz County will benefit all 1,000 students of the Santa Cruz Valley Unified School District.” Additionally, “the local Rio Rico Community will benefit from the new fiber infrastructure brought into the area by Valley Telcom.”

Superintendent Horne’s release went on to explain that “E-rate brings high-speed Internet broadband to areas of the country underserved by existing utilities.” The funding of these projects comes “through an assessment on telecommunications providers as required by federal law with the goal of ensuring that communications services such as broadband are accessible for eligible schools and libraries in rural areas.”

These projects are extremely vital for the future of many people around the state, according to the Department, as “many non-metro regions have limited Internet connectivity, and on tribal lands an estimated 95 percent of households have no connectivity.”

The catalyst of Arizona E-rate’s productivity can be traced back two administrations, when Superintendent Diane Douglas led the state’s Department of Education. This week’s announcement included the history of E-rate in Arizona, adding, “in cooperation with other state agencies, ADE’s Erate Director, Milan Eaton, capitalized on the FCC Second order in 2017 allowing states to contribute to construction projects and increasing the eligible amount to the participating school district. To date there are more than 80 projects either complete or in process across the state.”

Other projects highlighted by the Arizona Department of Education included:

  • County wide fiber build in Pinal County – $33.9 million
  • Fiber to the Grand Canyon School District – $5.6 million
  • County wide fiber build in Gila County – $19.4 million
  • County wide fiber build in LaPaz County – $3.9 million

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

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