Cheaper, faster, better broadband Part 5

By William Post & Audra Caler-Bell | Mar 26, 2020

This is the fifth in a series of articles generated by a joint ad hoc working group of Camden and Rockport elected officials, staff and volunteer residents exploring the options for cheaper, faster, better internet service. This series is intended to generate dialogue, initiate questions, and help residents and policymakers determine what is best for our respective communities. Please contact your respective Town Managers with comments or questions: William Post (Rockport Town Manager) wpost@rockportmaine.gov or Audra Caler-Bell (Camden Town Manager) ACaler-Bell@camdenmaine.gov.

Critical element to education

In Midcoast Maine we understand the value of education and we have consistently supported improvements in our educational system. And now it has become imperative that our children also have access to high-speed internet both at home and at school in order to compete in the 21st century knowledge economy.

Experts claim that one of the biggest challenges facing educators today is access to broadband outside the classroom. In advocating for federal legislation to support broadband efforts, Sen. Angus King noted that “one-third of low-income householders with school-age children lack adequate high-speed internet.” But it doesn’t necessarily stop with the kids—teachers need broadband access, too. The internet is the gateway to knowledge and educational resources that expand learning beyond the classroom. Teachers use online materials to prepare lessons and design learning curricula, such as project-based learning. Students expand their learning through interactive teaching methods that make it possible for students to receive the same quality education in rural America that they receive in an urban environment. In areas with sufficient broadband access, students are taking advantage of courses not locally offered to them, even availing themselves of dual-credit courses that allow them to gain sufficient credit to graduate high school while at the same time using those credits toward their college degree.

In what can sometimes be a harsh climate, broadband makes snow days more productive because the classroom can be extended virtually to snow-bound students. High-speed internet connectivity also allows for customized learning, not only for special needs students but for those with learning challenges—enabling teachers to personalize education for students and optimize the best learning outcome. Additionally, assistive technology features found on computers can provide students with disabilities the same access to course materials as other students (e.g., closed captioning on lesson plans for the hearing impaired, etc.)

In addition to school age children, broadband allows college students to obtain degrees from home and adults of all ages to engage in lifelong learning pursuits. Adults who want or need to obtain additional education can do so through online courses, opening employment opportunities to them that might not otherwise be available.

From home-schooling to college degrees and from continuing education to helping close the “homework gap,” broadband extends learning opportunities beyond the limits of schools and classrooms and enables us to develop the knowledge and skills to compete, thrive and flourish without leaving home.

Case Study: Losing Sleep

Margo is a teacher and West Rockport resident, who shared her individual story at a town meeting. She said that in her neighborhood, there was but “one pipe going down street, Spectrum.” Because there’s no alternative broadband service, she regularly gets up at 4 a.m. to get her course work done because at other times of the day, the neighborhood use of the “pipe” slows down internet speed to a crawl. “How do we grow work in the community?” she rhetorically asked at the town meeting. “Work is very different today than 10 years ago. This is an issue about equity and work. It’s just a smart thing to do, because it is about creating sustainability for this community.”

 

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