Internet access below state goals

Published 12:09 pm Wednesday, February 8, 2017

As the state pushes its school divisions to surpass connectivity goals, Lunenburg County Public Schools (LCPS) didn’t meet the minimum goals for bandwidth per student in 2016, according to a press release from Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s office.

Virginia is currently ranked the 46th in the nation for percentage of schools meeting connectivity goals, sitting at 72 percent, according to the release.

The state aims for schools to be able to provide internet access at the rate of 100 kilobytes per second (kbps) for each student.

The EducationSuperHighway Compare and Connect K-12 database showed Lunenburg County has remained at 66 kbps in 2016, the same as 2015. Prince Edward County Public Schools also fell below the minimum requirement, but provides 92 kbs per student.

According to LCPS Director of Student Support Services Frances Wilson, the school system currently provides 100 megabytes (mb) connectivity service through Kinex Telecom Inc. to each of their four schools — Kenbridge Elementary, Victoria Elementary, Lunenburg Middle and Central High.

“Our contract is a five-year contract, but we are currently due to undergo negotiations to increase our connectivity speed,” said Wilson in an emailed statement.

Wilson’s statement didn’t include how much LCPS pays Kinex for its current service.

LCPS is participating in the Virginia Department of Education’s E-Rate program, designed to “ensure that schools and libraries can obtain high-speed internet access and telecommunications at affordable rates,” according to the state department’s website.

Virginia committed $42,870,417.84 to the E-Rate program in 2016, according to the E-Rate Central, the program’s official website.

“We plan to increase our speed toward the state requirement as funding and E-Rate approval allows,” Wilson said.

While LCPS’s connectivity remained the same from 2015-16, schools in Buckingham and Cumberland surpassed the state’s internet access goal, after sitting below the minimum in 2015, according to the database.

Compared to Charlotte, Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward, LCPS had the lowest internet access rate per student, sitting 34 kbs below Virginia’s goal.

Overall, the state saw 26 percent more schools attain the 100 kbs rate per student between 2015 and 2016.

Virginia’s initiative to upgrade the broadband statewide began in 2014, when 33 percent of school divisions met the internet access goals set by the state Department of Education.