The Ellis School in Fremont opened this morning with a celebration of connectivity. The school recently enlisted the help of the New Hampshire School Connectivity Initiative to work towards increasing broadband to students in the school. NHSCI has partnered with the non-profit, EducationSuperHighway, who provides guidance and support to schools looking to increase bandwidth and capitalize on the new e-rate modernization rules. Governor Maggie Hassan gave the keynote at the morning’s assembly. She was joined by Commissioner of Education, Virginia Barry, and EducationSuperHighway CEO Evan Marwell.
Officials pledge to expand high-speed internet access for students
FREMONT — Governor Maggie Hassan and State Education Commissioner Virginia Barry welcomed Ellis School students back to school Wednesday with a promise to continue pushing to bring high-speed internet and other technology improvements to New Hampshire schools. “We really want all of you to be prepared for the future,” Hassan told the hundreds of students from preschool to eighth grade who gathered for an assembly on the school’s participation in the New Hampshire School Connectivity Initiative.
The initiative was announced in February as part of a new partnership between the state Department of Education, the Department of Information Technology, the Department of Resources and Economic Development and the University of New Hampshire. Through NHSCI, state leaders have begun fiber network discussions with school districts, service providers and partner organizations.
A nonprofit organization called Education Superhighway is working on the initiative for free. The organization supports increased broadband connectivity in public schools. Education Superhighway CEO and founder Evan Marwell said the goal is to bring a fiber optic connection to every school; add a WiFi access point in every classroom to improve the wireless connection for all students; and make broadband more affordable for school districts. According to Marwell, a program run by the Federal Communications Commission called E-rate covers most of the cost of bringing broadband to schools through the $3.9 billion a year it receives in funding. Marwell said Ellis School is among the schools in New Hampshire planning to apply for funds to enhance its internet capabilities.
Marwell said that if the state puts up 10 percent of the cost, the FCC will pay for most of the remaining costs, easing the burden on schools to fund the improvements out of their own budgets. “The governor has put in her budget money to support the schools that don’t have fiber optic connections today to cover that 10 percent of the cost,” he said. Marwell said there about 180 school districts in New Hampshire and roughly a third of them need to make the upgrades.
Carla Smith, Ellis School’s technology director, said the school currently some wireless connection but she hopes it can be expanded through the initiative. “I would like to have access points in all rooms so that we can put mobile devices in any room,” she said. The school also expects to add more devices in classrooms in the future and replace wired technology with wireless.
The district currently pays for business class internet service through Comcast, but school officials hope to be able to purchase more bandwidth to meet future demands.
Article by Jason Schreiber in the Union Leader, September 1, 2016 at http://www.unionleader.com/article/20160901/NEWS04/160839808
For more information about the New Hampshire School Connectivity Initiative, visit www.NHEON.org/nhsci.