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Gov. Bullock Highlights Partnership To Improve Internet In Montana Schools

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Governor Steve Bullock held an event in Bozeman to highlight a new public-private partnership working to bring broadband internet service to schools across the country at little- to no-cost.

A public-private partnership is working to bring broadband to schools across the country at little- to no-cost.

Evan Marwell is the founder and CEO of the national non-profit group EducationSuperHighway.

"I founded EducationSuperHighway because I believe deeply, as I am sure many of you in this room are, in the power of technology to help America’s students and ensure that every student in this country has an equal access to educational opportunity."

He told a gathering of school administrators meeting in Bozeman that President Obama and many governors have made broadband in schools a priority.

The San Francisco based group is working with local school districts, government officials, and private companies to close the broad-band gap. It starts with figuring out what schools are working with now.

"There are up to 160 schools in Montana that don’t even have access to the high-speed fiber optic technology that they need to upgrade their bandwidth," says Marwell. "These schools simply can’t get more broadband. They’re stuck."

Governor Steve Bullock says federal dollars will largely pay for these upgrades.

"Yeah you might have a level of connectivity that today can do those basic things. Those things that are good, but good isn’t necessarily good enough. I don’t care if you are in Martinsdale or Missoula or anywhere in between. That students really do have the tools that they really need in a 21st century environment."

Evan Marwell has worked to get that federal funding. He says it’s been a bipartisan effort.

"Everybody realizes that we need to have broadband for our kids or they’re going to be left behind in the 21st century when they try to compete with kids from China, and Europe, and every place else around this world."

He says the bulk of the funding to upgrade to broadband comes from dollars through the Federal Communication Commission.

"School districts do have to do a match according to the program but the vast majority of the money comes from the federal government."

He says his company hasn’t started working with Wyoming schools yet. But Marwell says under Governor Matt Mead a broadband effort has been launched to bring high speed internet to Wyoming schools.

This push to broadband has wider impact, says Montana’s Governor Steve Bullock, the entire community gets access too.