Before the start of the next school year, Arkansas may be among the few states providing high-speed internet access to all of its public school districts.
In the 1990’s Arkansas developed a system for providing internet access to schools, but its capabilities were limited and it became outdated quickly. Now, fiber optic cables running throughout the state have replaced the old infrastructure and currently reach 233 of the state’s 238 school districts. The updated system, known as the Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN) will increase access speeds from 5 kilobits per student to 200 kilobits per student.
“This new network is going to save the school districts a lot of money because, at 200 kilobits per user, the Department of Education is paying for all that. And they [the school districts] won’t have to have any internet of their own that they have to pay for themselves,” said Don McDaniel with Arkansas’s Department of Information Systems.
Prior to recent upgrades individual school districts were responsible for providing internet access to their students, which meant poor and rural districts often operated without significant access for their students.
According to McDaniel, the last five school districts are scheduled for connection to APSCN before doors open for the 2017- 2018 school year.
When he took office, Governor Asa Hutchinson set the goal of 100 percent access for state-funded broadband access for all public schools.