Arkansas ranks at or near the bottom in national rankings of digital learning and broadband access. The Foundation for Education Excellence in Education has given Arkansas an “F” for digital learning opportunities. TechNet’s Broadband Index has listed Arkansas as 50th among all states for broadband access.
So it makes sense that CenturyLink would intentionally and single-handily hold back the state of Arkansas from receiving $15 million in federal funding for schools. Currently, CenturyLink is one of 16 companies that has agreed to upgrade school districts from older copper connections to the upgraded Arkansas Public School Computer Network. This network will connect school districts to central high-speed Internet hubs and is expected to cost about $49 million, most of which will be paid through the federal E-rate program.
But the state of Arkansas won’t be able to ask for the money from the FCC until CenturyLink submits the paperwork to the state. Paperwork that was expected awhile ago and still hasn’t come.
“Until we deliver that plan, not only is the state of Arkansas and DIS not going to get their funding commitments, but no school district will get their funding commitments.” – Mark Myers, director of the Department of Information Systems, NWAOnline
CenturyLink officials say that they just want to make sure that Arkansas’ process for school broadband upgrades complies with federal rules. But as state officials note, the FCC has already told them and CenturyLink that everything was acceptable.
Again, what is the holdup?