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New Report Reveals Trend of Rural Schools Overcharged for Spotty Internet Services Unlikely to Change

New Report Reveals Trend of Rural Schools Overcharged for Spotty Internet Services Unlikely to Change

A new report based on five months of comprehensive research from Education Week has revealed that school systems in rural areas are frequently overcharged for internet services that barely work.

Due to the expensive cost of running high-speed lines to schools in remote areas and a consequential lack of competition, internet providers are able to charge rural school systems significantly more for internet services that are oftentimes of poor quality, Education Week said.

"A small regional carrier called WNM Communications bills the district roughly $3,700 each month. Most U.S. schools can get similar speeds for about $550,” the Education Week report said, referring to Datil Elementary School in Catron County, N.M. that serves just 17 students.

For more than half of rural school districts in the country, they only have the option of one Internet provider that operates where larger carriers refuse to due to a lack of financial opportunity.

As a result, Education Week says the smaller carriers are able to charge as much as five times more than the national average- a price almost twenty percent of districts pay.

WNW is quick to defend itself despite seemingly overcharging the small districts it serves.

"WNM's fiber lines span a service area covering more than 15,000 square miles of harsh, sparsely populated terrain. Maintaining and upgrading that infrastructure isn’t cheap, [president David] Thomas said, and the costs have to be spread out across a total of just 5,300 customers,” Education Week said.

Though the FCC is hopeful that new efforts to provide rural areas with high-speed and affordable broadband networks, Education Week is skeptical after its five months of investigating the matter.

It is unsure if the area will be able to attract additional internet providers anytime soon, and that change to the E-rate program will still fail to create fair prices.

Read the full report.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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