Governor Mike Beebe today called for a change in Arkansas law to restore the opportunity for school districts to access an existing statewide broadband network. His comments came as the Arkansas Board of Education adopted the Arkansas Digital Learning Study at their Friday meeting. Beebe has endorsed the report as well.
In 2011, the passage of Act 1050 created an exemption that prevented K-12 schools from accessing the Arkansas Research Education Optical Network, known as ARE-ON. Without that access, the recent report from the Quality Digital Learning Study Committee found the current network infrastructure for K-12 schools to be inadequate, inefficient and a poor return on taxpayer investment.
"Whatever the reasons were behind the exemption passed in 2011, it has become clear that Act 1050 has impeded our progress in developing a reliable and efficient broadband infrastructure for Arkansas students," Beebe said. "Giving K-12 schools the opportunity to access ARE-ON will provide better online availability for our students and save our taxpayers money."
The FASTER Arkansas Committee, which has also been studying broadband access, agrees that changing Act 1050 in the near future is the single most productive step we can take toward a stronger broadband infrastructure in Arkansas education.