Connecting Colorado’s Schools:  The Colorado High Speed Internet Project

THE CHALLENGE: Colorado is ranked #42 out of 50 states on per student costs, speed and access to the internet at our schools. Our neighboring states of Nebraska, Wyoming and Utah offer high speed internet access at one-tenth the current Colorado costs. In 2000, approximately 45,000 classes throughout the US school systems were taken online. In 2009, approximately three million classes were taken online. The expectation is that by 2019, one half of all high school classes will be online. The students of Colorado deserve access to high speed internet at an affordable price to meet the challenges of the 21st century global economy! It is not only the rural areas of the State which are currently underserved. This is true throughout the State. No enterprises stepped forward until 2009-2010 when an opportunity presented itself.

THE PROJECT: With the support of the three Rotary Districts in the State of Colorado and many current and former Rotarians, the Rotary Club of Denver assisted EAGLE-Net (Educational Access Gateway Learning Environment Network, www.co-eaglenet.net ) to acquire a $100.6 million federal stimulus grant, plus $46 million additional in in-kind services to install high speed internet to 234 community anchor points (CAIs) throughout the State. These CAIs include all 178 school district buildings. The other CAIs are libraries, museums and some colleges and universities not already served. This network is referred to as the “Middle Mile” and construction has already started. The grant was awarded September, 2010 and must be completed by September, 2013. This is the backbone necessary to deliver the internet to the students and teachers, but it is only part of the solution. The next challenge to Rotarians and other residents of the State is to extend this backbone from the anchor point or the Middle Mile out into the community, including every classroom – sometimes referred to as the “Last Mile.”

Our priority is to focus on the educational systems of the State, but this project has the potential to connect healthcare providers, first responders, non-profit organizations, municipalities, counties, businesses and homes. At this time, EAGLE-Net staff are traveling the State working with municipal, business and education leaders about their part of the project. At the same time, we are educating fellow Rotarians about this project through presentations throughout Colorado, facilitating the local conversations , and offering to assist in local strategic planning or visioning. Development of a speakers’ bureau, databases of reference materials, and potential funding sources is also occurring. This is an exciting challenge and our communities deserve to take advantage of this opportunity as soon as the Middle Mile arrives.

For further information, please contact Harriet S. Downer, Chair of both the Denver Rotary Club’s committee and the District 5450 Committee for this project at HSDowner@LogicalConnections.org or 303.601.8591.

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