Broadband Connections for Underserved Students in Independence

August 28, 2020 09:05

UNDERSERVED CENTRAL STUDENTS TO GET BROADBAND CONNECTIONS

A state grant will fund in-home connections and wi-fi zones in Independence and Monmouth

On 08/17/2020 the City of Independence and MINET were awarded a $239,810 grant from Business Oregon’s Rural Broadband Capacity Program.  The funding will be used to establish and pay for internet connections to 163 underserved students in Independence and Monmouth through December 2020.  “Distance learning doesn’t work without a good internet connection,” said Independence Mayor John McArdle “we’re fortunate to have a foundational resource like MINET to ensure nobody gets left behind.”  

In addition to in-home internet connections, the grant will fund twenty wi-fi zones located on public properties and near low income housing throughout Independence and Monmouth.  The wi-fi zones will enable Central School District to deliver secure access to an online educational environment for low income students and those living outside city limits.  These permanent wi-fi zones will also serve as an emergency information network where people can go for the latest news during an emergency or natural disaster.   Where possible, the zones will be co-located with public facilities that have generator backup, enabling them to remain operational even if power is lost. “Once the infrastructure is in place, it will serve any low-income or underserved students who subsequently move to town,” said MINET General Manager Don Patten “our central office also has redundant data and power feeds so it’s a real benefit to disaster resiliency too.”

In May, Central School District surveyed its student population and identified 163 students living inside Independence and Monmouth city limits who have limited or no access to broadband in their homes.  An additional 55 students were identified living in unincorporated Polk County with limited service, who will be able to access online learning through the Wi-Fi zones.  Both of these lists are being updated through the registration process for the 2020-21 school year.

The Oregon Legislative Assembly Joint Emergency Board allocated $10,000,000 for grants from funds received by the state of Oregon under the CARES Act of 2020 for the support of infrastructure construction and emergency response projects to provide increased broadband capacity internet access for telework, telehealth, and K-12 distance learning applications in unserved and underserved areas in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Because the grant is funded by CARES Act money, funds must be fully expended by December 31, 2020.  To sustain internet service in 2021, low income students can access the federal Lifeline program to sustain the household connections that were established, or they will be able to utilize the wi-fi zones.  The wi-fi zones will have a service radius of approximately 1 city block and can serve over a hundred people simultaneously in excess of federally-designated broadband speeds.

For more information contact Shawn Irvine, sirvine@ci.independence.or.us


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