Governor Steve Bullock today launched a new opportunity for Montana’s schools to apply for funding to boost access to high-speed broadband, giving schools the ability to develop 21st century classrooms and provide students with more digital learning tools.
“Thanks to a collaboration among schools, broadband providers and the state, we’re making sure students in Montana can access high-quality digital learning tools that will set them up for success in our high-tech world,” Governor Bullock said. “Students in our rural schools should have the same connectivity as those in our urban schools, and we’re getting closer to achieving that goal every day.”
Schools can now apply for funding made possible through House Bill 390, creating a state match to leverage broadband funds available through the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) E-rate program. This fund will enable schools to upgrade their broadband infrastructure to facilitate digital learning in the classroom. HB 390 provides Montana’s public K-12 schools with $2 million in funding over the next two years to upgrade to fiber connections. When leveraged with FCC E-rate program funds and local funding, HB 390 could trigger up to $20 million in much-needed broadband investment for schools.
With Governor Bullock’s support and assistance from the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway, Montana has helped school districts statewide make significant upgrades in the past few years. In 2016, 15,762 more students in Montana were connected to high-speed broadband and 118 school districts upgraded their broadband. In addition, 90 percent of school districts in Montana in 2016 met the FCC’s minimum connectivity goal of 100 kilobits per second (kbps) per student, up from 78 percent in 2015.
For more information, and to apply for the matching funds, visit http://comdev.mt.gov/Programs/Broadband.