State House of Representatives passes unanimous vote to fund increased wireless networks

In a rare unanimous vote, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to free up $12 million that could help poor and rural schools get wireless broadband inside their walls. Benefited

“The beauty of this bill is the equity,” said Rep. Donnie Chesteen, R-Geneva, the bill’s sponsor.

Lawmakers voted 105-0 for the bill, often called the Wired Act, that aims to fix a convoluted problem that, Chesteen says, has held some schools back where information technology is concerned.

For years, the federal government has helped local schools buy computers through E-rate, the money it collects through a service fee charged to telecommunications companies. To get E-rate money, though, local systems have to pitch in matching funds.

Small and low-income districts often don’t have the money for those matching funds, Chesteen said, and 91 districts are poised to miss out on a large E-rate payout if they don’t make a mid-March deadline. Chesteen’s bill would take $12 million from a state fund for school technology to pay for the match.

Next page: What educators are saying

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