Education Week - January 13, 2016 - (Page 13)

REVERSING RAW DEAL RURALABROADBAND Reversing A Raw Deal At tiny Datil Elementary, personalized learning for students like 8-year-old Chisum Harriet, in plaid shirt, doesn't involve much technology. The Harriet family ranch in Catron County, below, covers 53,000 acres. Nichole Sanders commutes 68 miles each way from the ranch to her job in the local school district. ONLINE EXTRA Rural Schools, Telecoms Battle Over Internet Pricing By Benjamin Herold Catron County, N.M. N ichole Sanders' daily commute begins with a 14-mile drive across a seemingly endless stretch of New Mexico grassland, mountains rising in the distance on all four sides, the only traffic the stubborn cattle that congregate on the dirt road leading out to Highway 12. At 53,000 acres, the Harriet Family Ranch, originally homesteaded by Sanders' great-grandparents, now covers more land than the city of Baltimore. But all of that space is home to just eight people: Sanders and her husband, her brother and his wife, and a pair of children for each couple. To help make ends meet, Sanders works in the nearest school district, called Quemado, 68 miles away. "It's tough, but I wouldn't trade it," she said of ranching life. Such vast distances and sparse populations come with a cost: Like many other rural and remote schools, the two-school Quemado district is billed exorbitant prices for modest Internet service. While some New Mexico schools are charged as little as $1.35 per month for each megabit per second of bandwidth they use, others are charged as much as $3,780, according to a recent analysis by the state public school facilities authority. WNM Communications, a small regional carrier that serves Quemado and about a half-dozen other small districts in the state, charges well above the median. Through the E-rate program, the federal government picks up most of the tab. But the fight is on to bring prices down while also expanding service. It's not going to be easy, in large part because of daunting economic realities facing the small carriers that are actually willing to serve places such as Quemado. If another company wants to come to New Mexico's Catron County and lay 100 miles of high-speed fiber-optic cable at $80,000 a mile to serve a handful of people, said WNM President David Thomas, "have at it." n To read the full version of this story and learn more about the business side of rural schools' broadband challenges, go to EDUCATION WEEK | January 13, 2016 | | 13

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - January 13, 2016

Education Week - January 13, 2016
Education Still Struggling for Traction as Campaign Issue
School Revenue Squeezed in Oil, Coal States
Feds to K-12: Ensure Safety For Muslims
Report Roundup
News in Brief
Political Winds Buffet Tenn.’s Achievement School District
Charter Sector to Get $1 Billion Boost From Walton
In the ‘Chess Capital’ of St. Louis, Game Takes Root in Poor Districts
Blogs of the Week
Education Week Launches Premium Site for K-12 Companies
The Slowest Internet in Mississippi
Rural Schools, Telecoms Battle Over Internet Pricing
‘Washington Gave Us Leverage’
Amid Its Own Changes, Research Office Gears Up for New ESSA Duties
Education Department Begins to Scope Out ESSA-Era Role
Blogs of the Week
Own the ‘Messy Dress’ of Scholarship
Stick to the Truth
Embrace the ‘Hurly Burly’
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
Edu-Scholars and the Public Square: What Is Our Responsibility?

Education Week - January 13, 2016