Good news: Washington state has one of the fastest Internet downloading speeds in the nation.
Bad news: Idaho is dead, dead last.
A New York Times article covers a new study from Pando that finds Idaho has the slowest download speed in the nation. The slowest town? Pocatello. (One reason, the New York Times article discusses, is bears. Rural areas have their disadvantages.)
This news is particularly interesting in light of Idaho’s state-wide educational initiative, which calls for substantial spending to provide school districts with one portable computer for every student. In a few years, the initiative will require students to take online courses in the district’s computer labs.
The state-wide focus on technology and online education is relatively new. According to Melissa McGrath, communications director for the Idaho State Department of Education, only Maine has a similar commitment to provide a laptop to every student. But, with slow community regional Internet access throughout Idaho, how will this work?
“Any requirements we put in place, those would happen during the school day. That way we can ensure students have Internet access,” McGrath says.
School districts will decide whether students can take their laptops home, McGrath says.
In fact, the school district’s initiative may be one way to help ameliorate the effects of a slow state-wide downloading speed.
“We definitely expect the Idaho Education Network to have an extremely powerful impact with the communities,” McGrath says. In Weiser, Idaho, for example, schools are open in the evening for classes for key community members.
“This is the beginning of us closing the digital divide that we currently have in the state of Idaho,” McGrath says. “That’s a phrase we’ve used in the state of Idaho for years. Student in remote communities have not had the same educational opportunities in the more urban areas, simply because of where they live. They’ll have those opportunities for the first time ever.”