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When Schools Can’t Get Online

The federal government estimates that fewer than 30 percent of K-12 schools nationwide have adequate broadband infrastructure, and has pledged financing to help improve the situation. In Maryland, about $115 million in federal money has gone to improve broadband access. Last year, President Obama added more spending through the Connect Ed program, promising that “virtually all” the nation’s schools will have high-speed connections, along with teacher training and digital tools, by 2017.

A little slice of that federal money brought broadband last year to almost all of the 3,800 public school children in the Garrett County, Maryland’s most remote and least populous school district. Teachers are using the new service to develop high-tech lessons that retain familiar agricultural themes. Schools no longer need to limit students’ use of the Internet for fear of overburdening the connection, but they still must make do with very old computers. Two of the 12 schools in the district are not linked to the new fiber broadband and probably won’t be any time soon.