EAST Begins Rural Broadband Project

   

EAST Begins Rural Broadband Project
8/12/2013 4:27:34 PM

The EAST Rural Broadband Project is a collaborative effort between the EAST Initiative and the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority that is engaging students and communities in the ArkLaTex and Delta regions of Arkansas to address issues related to entrepreneurial development of broadband, high speed internet in rural areas of the state.

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The EAST Rural Broadband Project is a collaborative effort between the EAST Initiative and the Arkansas Science and Technology Authority (ASTA) that is engaging students and communities in the ArkLaTex and Delta regions of Arkansas to address issues related to entrepreneurial development of broadband, high speed internet in rural areas of the state. This project is made possible through a grant from the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation.

This project will be completed in three stages. A survey stage, an intensive training camp focused on GIS and entrepreneurial development, and a final stage focused on the business plans that the students develop in consultation with mentors from business and local government.

In the first stage, students teams from ten pilot EAST schools (Ashdown High School, Dierks High School, Drew Central High School, Foreman High School, Hamburg High School, Mineral Springs High School, Monticello High School, Nashville High School, the Southeast Arkansas Community Based Education Center (SEACBEC), and Star City High School) will conduct residential and business surveys of broadband connectivity and tie the information collected into a Geographical Information System (GIS) that will provide far better data of broadband connectivity than is currently available. Under current FCC standards, any access point in a zip code designates that zip code as being served by broadband resources. In the communities themselves, though, a single access point does not necessarily translate into widespread access to broadband resources. Additionally the students will be looking into demand for broadband in a manner that will allow service providers to have a much better picture of the needs of their potential customers. This stage will take place in the late summer and early fall of 2006.

The second stage of this project involves a three-day, intensive "camp" where all of the student teams will gather to produce high-quality maps that give much greater detail than is currently publicly available. They will also work with broadband providers to learn more about what options exist to serve rural areas and how they differ. Finally, the students will work with entrepreneurial mentors from business and industry to develop business plans that will address ways to meet the needs of their local communities in relation to broadband services. This stage will take place in early November of 2006.

The third stage of this project will see the student teams return to their local communities to finalize and write their business plans and disseminate the findings of their work. The plans will be submitted to a judging group overseen by ASTA which will name winners and give awards. With these plans finalized, the students and their local communities will be able to apply for Opportunity Grants from EAST that will provide seed money to explore further the application of broadband technologies in the students' communities.

The potential for better information and innovative entrepreneurial development make this project an ideal opportunity for students and communities to better take advantage of the opportunities of the Twenty-first Century.

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