Alaska House fast-tracks rural school internet bill after education veto • Alaska Lighthouse

Alaska Country School Additional state and federal funding may be available to speed up internet That’s despite Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoing a multipart education bill this week.

Early Thursday morning, the Alaska House of Representatives voted 36-4 to pass House Bill 193a program that provides up to $39.4 million in state aid to rural schools to match federal funds aimed at improving their internet service.

Rep. Bryce Edgmon, the lead House member behind the bill, said he hopes the Senate will take up the bill quickly and said the governor’s office has told him Dunleavy is leaning toward allowing it to become law.

Lawmakers must act quickly: March 27 is the federal deadline for rural school districts to apply to fund $9 out of every 10 dollars in internet costs.

If a school district misses this deadline, they won’t be able to reapply until next year.

Currently, regions are limited to 25 megabits per second, which is so slow that it no longer qualifies as “broadband.” a new definition The FCC released it last week.

HB 193 provides a state match for federal funds to pay for speeds up to 100 mbps.

“No. 1. We don’t have much time left. We have seven days until the absolute hard stop,” Edmond said late Wednesday night.

Last year, 151 schools benefited from the scheme, but many say current limits on bandwidth and speeds are too low for modern use.

“We’re in an era where schools are increasingly reliant on better internet speeds for everything from conference calls to taking tests… it’s become an essential service,” Edmond said.

Rep. Thomas Baker, R-Kotzebue, said that at some of the schools he represents, it can take 15 minutes to open a Wikipedia page, and some administrators have to cut off internet connections in parts of school buildings to ensure there is enough bandwidth for other students.

Rep. Alyse Galvin, D-Anchorage, urged lawmakers to support the bill, citing public testimony that some students took four days to take online exams because of insufficient internet. Students in Anchorage can complete the test in one day, she said.

“If we’re going to have a public education system, then we need to make sure that’s balanced,” she said.

Funding for projects to improve the internet was included in Senate Bill 140, the comprehensive education legislation that passed the House and Senate in February, but Dunleavy vetoed the bill, and lawmakers failed by one vote to override the veto on Monday.

House Rules Committee Chairman Craig Johnson, R-Anchorage, said the push for HB 193 to pass the House late Wednesday night and early Thursday was at least partly due to Alaska Lighthouse’s support for the coverage of the issue.

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