A recent New York Times article highlights the importance of high-speed internet access in today’s world while pointing a critical finger toward Idaho’s distinction as the state with the slowest internet speeds. In the midst of its criticism, however, the article recognizes as a “bright spot” the work the Idaho Education Network (IEN) has done to connect all high schools in the state with high-speed, broadband access. By Fall 2012, all Idaho high schools will not only have this high-speed internet but will also be connected to every other high school, college, and university in the state. The Idaho Education Network not only ensures internet access for our students but will open up a world of educational opportunities for students and the local community.
The article largely focuses on internet access in Idaho’s rural and remote communities, not in Idaho’s schools.
High-speed internet is an increasingly important engine for “education and economic growth.” The article quotes Jonathan Adelstein, administrator of the federal government’s Rural Utilities Service as saying, “This is about our overall competitiveness… without broadband, especially in rural areas, kids might not reach their full potential. And we can’t expect to be competitive in a global economy.” In Idaho, we couldn’t agree more. We have recognized that internet access is critical for our schools and have made improvements in this area. Not only will all high schools be connected through the IEN, but, through the Students Come First reform laws, all schools will be equipped with wireless internet access as well.
Once our schools are equipped with broadband and wireless internet access, the state will ensure they can connect to and take advantage of these resources with technologies such as one-to-one mobile computing devices for every high school student and by making online courses more readily available.
The fact is, while some residents in Idaho may have to wait for greater broadband access in their homes, our students won’t have to. Idaho’s proactive education reforms are working to ensure students receive the best education possible by opening a portal to a world of information and resources while they are in school. That’s why, in a critical article that draws issues of connectivity to our state’s attention, our education system is recognized as having found a solution for our schools and our students. These reforms are timely. Our students deserve, and need, the opportunities they bring.