A new project in southern Arizona raises AZED’s broadband initiative support to $160 million in total

E-Rate expanded in 2017

Contributed Article/Courtesy Arizona Department of Education

PHOENIX – With the completion of $3.6 million in broadband projects to bring Internet fiber connectivity to Santa Cruz County, the Arizona Department of Education has brought a total of approximately $160 million in fiber construction projects to schools and libraries in rural areas through the federal E-Rate Program in the past six years.

The latest project in Santa Cruz County will benefit all 1,000 Santa Cruz Valley Unified Schools District students. The local Rio Rico Community will also benefit from the new fiber infrastructure brought into the area by Valley Telcom.

State schools chief Tom Horne said, “With access to high-speed broadband, students can take remote classes and take advantage of digital learning opportunities. Educators will be able to dramatically enhance their professional development capabilities and communities will be transformed by the cultural and economic benefits of having a strong connection to the Internet.”

E-rate brings high-speed Internet broadband to areas of the country underserved by existing utilities. It is funded through an assessment of telecommunications providers as required by federal law with the goal of ensuring that communications services such as broadband are accessible for eligible schools and libraries in rural areas.

In Arizona, many non-metro regions have limited Internet connectivity, and on tribal lands, an estimated 95 percent of households have no connectivity.  

In cooperation with other state agencies, ADE’s Erate Director, Milan Eaton, capitalized on the FCC Second order in 2017 allowing states to contribute to construction projects and increasing the eligible amount to the participating school district. To date, there are more than 80 projects complete or in process across the state. Some other largest projects completed to date include: 

·         County wide fiber build in Pinal County – $33.9M 

·         Fiber to the Grand Canyon School District – $5.6M 

·         County wide fiber build in Gila County – $19.4M 

·         County wide fiber build in LaPaz County – $3.9M 

Kelly, Sinema announce more than $6.7 million to connect Arizonans in rural communities to high-speed internet from Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Roughly $6,772,420 will be invested in delivering affordable, accessible high-speed internet to Arizona families, businesses, and schools in Mohave County from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law led by Senator Kyrsten Sinema and shaped by Senator Mark Kelly.  

The investment was awarded through the Reconnect Loan and Grant Program funded by Kelly and Sinema’s infrastructure law. The program awards funds to the most difficult high-speed internet projects in the nation, which connect the most rural, remote, and underserved communities.  

“More than ever, access to high-speed internet is critical to the development and well-being of our communities,” Kelly said. “Our historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is impacting the state, and now it will provide much-needed high-speed internet access to families, business owners, and students in Mohave County.”  

“As Arizona’s senior Senator, I focus on delivering lasting solutions to the communities I’m honored to serve – and that’s why when I wrote the infrastructure law, I made sure all corners of our state would benefit from the law’s investments. I’m proud to announce that, thanks to this work, Arizonans in Mohave County will now have increased access to affordable, reliable internet services to connect with loved ones, advance their education, and fuel a healthy economy,” said Sinema, lead negotiator and co-author of the bipartisan infrastructure law.   

The more than $6.7 million investment will be used to deploy a fiber-to-the-premises network to provide high-speed internet – benefitting more than 3,000 people, 47 businesses, and five educational facilities across Mohave County.   

The senators’ infrastructure law makes historic investments in repairing and upgrading America’s critical infrastructure, deploying high-speed broadband, expanding broadband internet access, and helping families afford broadband service.   

Kelly and Sinema’s law makes the internet more affordable and requires internet providers to offer a low-cost option to participate in federal broadband deployment funding. Following the passage of the infrastructure law, the Federal Communications Commission established the Affordable Connectivity Program using the funding Kelly and Sinema secured to help Arizonans access affordable internet. The program provides eligible families $30 a month toward their internet bills and $75 a month toward internet service in tribal areas.  

Fort Mojave Telecommunications Inc. will help make broadband services affordable by participating in the Affordable Connectivity Program.   

Additional information was provided courtesy of the office of Sen. Mark Kelly.