The Arizona Department of Education announced a $1.5 million dollar allocation to support the Final Mile Project. Federal relief and recovery funds available to ADE will fund high-speed internet infrastructure to homes located in six geographically diverse rural areas of Arizona. The project aims to create sustainable long-term solutions to the digital divide by capitalizing on existing infrastructure to connect families to affordable high-speed internet.
The Final Mile Project brings internet equity to rural students and families who have either no home internet, slow internet, or unaffordable internet. The project is spearheaded by the Arizona Rural Schools Association (ARSA) in association with the Arizona Business and Education Coalition (ABEC) and the Arizona Association of County School Superintendents (AACSS). It works to extend the broadband capacity provided to schools and libraries through the federal E-Rate program to the homes of rural students and families.
“The past year has exposed many long-standing inequities impacting Arizona students and families, notably access to at-home technology and internet service,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. “I am so grateful for the collaboration between the Arizona Department of Education, the Arizona Rural Schools Association, the Arizona Business, and Education Coalition, and the Arizona Association of County School Superintendents in helping bridge the digital divide for rural students.”
“Of all the chronic inequities impacting our rural students’ ability to recover from COVID-19 related learning loss, the lack of quality internet access will be the most enduring unless we act to close that last mile connection from our schools and libraries to the homes of our students. The Final Mile Project will take the fiber broadband so many of our schools receive, and work to extend that capacity to the student’s home, directly narrowing the digital divide,” said Wes Brownfield, Executive Director of the Arizona Rural Schools Association.
“COVID-19 introduced many crises for Arizona’s students and families, problems which can best be solved when business leaders, education experts, and policymakers collaborate. The Final Mile Project is the product of the belief that this collaboration should go beyond ‘getting through’ this current extremely difficult situation, but to emerge as a stronger, better more equitable Arizona,” said Dick Foreman President and CEO at the Arizona Business and Education Coalition.
“Every Arizona student deserves the chance to be connected to their school, community and the world from their home, with a reliable internet connection as the starting point. Children live in a digital world, and no matter where they live in Arizona all of them deserve equal and trustworthy access to make the most of their education. The Final Mile Project is a major step to providing every child with that opportunity,” said Tim Carter, Arizona Association of County School Superintendents.
The public-private effort allows internet service providers to offer high-speed internet to students and their families at an affordable cost. In an increasingly connected world, students need the benefit of high-speed internet to be successful. The Final Mile Project provides these opportunities to Arizona’s rural students. For more information on the Final Mile Project visit www.finalmileproject.com.