Power of Technology – Grants Bring Internet Connectivity Up to Speed in Rural Communities

For teachers at Congress Elementary School, poor internet service forced digital savvy thinkers, who wanted to use technology in the classroom, to begin the slow process of downloading an instructional video the night before to show in class the next day.

That was before educators in Yavapai County, a small Arizona farming community about 100 miles north of Phoenix, banded together to win a combination of state and federal grants aimed at upgrading local broadband connections to improve technology in the classroom.

The last of the funds, a $1.8 million grant designed to bring county internet broadband speeds up to standards, will enable Congress Elementary and 60 other schools and libraries in Yavapai County to access a new fiber-optic connection that will provide faster, more reliable online service. But, that’s not all. The new high-speed broadband will also enable entire towns including homes, businesses and public safety agencies to take advantage of the improved connectivity.

Bringing the Internet up to speed is a long time coming for rural pockets of Arizona, which ranks 29 among states in connectivity. That means other states are worse off. The good news is that $625 million in federal funds has been made available to underserved rural communities lacking adequate internet connectivity under the recently passed spending bill.

Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of GrantWatch.com, says local and state organizations can begin applying for these funds sometime in the summer. In the meantime, GrantWatch lists the most recent technology grants designed to increase access to broadband internet services in rural and underserved areas of the nation including states like Alabama, where online service can be essential for boosting technology education, economic development, emergency services and healthcare.

Some 842,000 people living in rural Alabama do not have access to broadband internet. That’s almost 20 percent of the state’s population living without what can be akin to “21st century electricity.” Connecting those communities with the same internet services that cities and suburban areas have enjoyed for many years will be a massive project, but one in which policymakers are committed to make happen. Yet, to provide internet connectivity capable of reaching every household in a four-county region of Alabama will cost about $40 million. So even though Tombigee Communications received a $3 million federal grant to help extend service to this region, the job is not even halfway toward completion.

Yavapai teachers, meanwhile, are happy to have secured a lane on the information superhighway. Instead of applying as individual entities, which would have made obtaining funds more difficult, dozens of local educators and administrators collaborated to submit a proposal to the federal Schools and Libraries Program.

Now, getting online is no longer a problem at Congress Elementary, although internet capability remains less than half of what is recommended by the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway. But, at the very least, the planned fiber-optic connection should improve download speed at school – and help the students learn at home.

Principal Stephanie Miller now uses technology every day in class to teach in ways she wouldn’t be able to do without the bandwidth. Internet access has also provided teachers at Congress Elementary with more flexibility to allow for individualized instruction, taking advantage of apps and computer programs that let students learn at their own pace – rather than the slow speeds once required of downloading the internet.

Educators, administrators, nonprofits, small businesses and entrepreneurs across the USA and International seeking internet connectivity grants and frustrated by the often-overwhelming process involved with searching for technology grants can identify funding opportunities that are easy to read and simple to comprehend at GrantWatch.comSign-up here to receive the weekly GrantWatch newsletter which features geographic-specific funding opportunities.

About the Author: Staff Writer at GrantWatch

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