Democratic Rep. Cheri Bustos met with local education and telecommunication officials to discuss rural broadband, specifically as it relates to schools.
The meeting was a stop on what Bustos is calling her “21st Century Heartland Tour”, a series of visits across the 17th District to hear “challenges” and “opportunities” of constituents while the U.S. Congress is in recess.
Most of yesterday’s discussion hosted by Monmouth College centered around the successes and failure of the e-rate program.
E-rate provides discounts to schools and libraries who wish to acquire among other things, internet access.
“In the end what we want is to make sure that in rural communities that broadband is as accessible as possible,” Bustos said. “You know, the stat that we were given was that there’s only 55 percent of the rural areas–now this isn’t specific to our district, but nationally–that have high speed broadband internet type of service compared with 90 some percent in urban areas.”
When Bustos asked West Central School District Technology Coordinator Melinda Frakes her advice on the erate program, Frakes response was “keep funding it.”
ROE 33 Regional Superintendent Jodi Scott and the United schools’ Superintendent Jeff Whitsitt agreed with Frakes that erate application can be daunting.
The idea was floated that some sort of regional consultant be put in place to assist entities with the process.