Utah education officials have secured a $13.4 million federal grant to pipe broadband into dozens of elementary schools, making internet access available to thousands of students, reports the Salt Lake Tribune. But the project requires a hefty state commitment that some lawmakers fear could be undermined if the Legislature takes a hatchet to education spending. There are about 150 elementary and charter schools in Utah served by inadequate, low-capacity internet connections, according to Michael Peterson, executive director of the Utah Education Network. The grant, which UEN secured through a competitive process, will underwrite the first phase in a statewide effort to bring fiber-based Ethernet lines into every school. “Imagine if you had several hundred students, plus staff and teachers and they’re all sharing a T-1 line. They can’t do online testing that’s now required,” Peterson said. “They can’t use media-intensive instruction. Those children cannot receive a 21st-century education with that kind of connectivity. Network connectivity in a school is as important as electricity and phone service.” The grant comes from a $4.7 billion pool of federal stimulus money distributed by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. The state is required to put up a $3.5 million match during the next three years. But given the uncertainty surrounding state support for higher education this legislative session, there is some concern whether UEN will have the funds and staff to meet obligations that come with the grant…

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Denny Carter

Dennis has covered higher education technology since April 2008, having interviewed some of the most recognized IT pros in U.S. colleges and universities. He is always updating eCampus News with the latest in pressing ed-tech issues, such as the growing i