One year in, Colorado sees progress in initiative to connect rural districts


A Colorado initiative aimed at increasing access to high-speed internet in schools is showing success after its first year.

The state reports that Kids Link Colorado, which helps schools better leverage their funds to improve broadband internet access, has helped rural school districts save money and dramatically increase their internet speeds.

Gov. John Hickenlooper formed Kids Link Colorado in September 2016 as a partnership between his office, the Office of Information Technology, and EducationSuperHighway, a research nonprofit focused on promoting broadband access.

“What a difference faster internet speeds have on the entire school district,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “Everyone benefits! Students have an easier time doing research and homework. Teachers can bring fresh and new lessons into the classroom. All of this while the district saves money.”

While more than 1,300 schools in the state have fiber connectivity, 46 others lack connectivity and most of them are located in remote parts of the state. Kids Link Colorado is working to close the rural connectivity gap in those areas. EducationSuperHighway is giving schools free procurement consulting and information to guide broadband gains. And the state says school districts and charter schools can take advantage of Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST), a competitive grant program by which the state matches funds for special construction projects.

Officials say 39 school districts have taken advantage of Kids Link. In Julesburg, a small town in northeastern Colorado, the school district increased its broadband bandwidth by 200 percent while shrinking costs by $1,400 monthly.

EducationSuperHighway said in its annual report for 2017 that there are 6.5 million students nationally who still lack high-speed internet access.

“We commend the governor’s commitment to ensuring that every student in Colorado has the high-speed connectivity necessary to take advantage of the opportunities that technology has to offer,” said Evan Marwell, founder and CEO of EducationSuperHighway.