The head of the Iowa Department of Education says if legislators decide to sell the state-owned fiber optics network, some of the state’s K-through-12 schools might lose the ability to connect to the Internet.
Last Friday, House Democratic Leader Kevin McCarthy said legislators should consider selling or leasing the Iowa Communications Network, but Iowa Department of Education director Judy Jeffrey says the ICN is the only way some students can surf the web. "There are some school districts who still don’t have high-speed access," Jeffrey says.
House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen said last week that students can just plug their computers into a jack in the wall and access the Internet. But Jeffrey says even where high-speed lines are available, the Iowa Communications Network provides a more reliable connection — and Jeffrey says that’s critical for the classes that are taught where students are at one site and the teacher is at another. "Many of these things could be accomplished through the Internet,"Jeffrey says, "but there are some parts of that two-way, audio-video streaming that are of a benefit to some of our students."
While Jeffrey isn’t going so far as to call on legislators to keep the Iowa Communications Network under state ownership, she is suggesting that if legislators sell or lease it, some accommodations should be made for schools in areas of the state where high-speed Internet access is unavailable. "Whether they decide to sell or lease or keep, I would hope they would preserve that option of our education enterprise having that access at a low cost," Jeffrey says.
Fiber optic lines for the Iowa Communications Network were installed in late 1990 and the system not only provides high-speed Internet access for schools, it serves as the phone and Internet service provider for all state government agencies. Legislators complain they spend millions keeping the network up-to-date and it may be time to sell the fiber optic system to the private sector.
Iowa Department of Education director Jeffrey made her comments this morning during an appearance on Iowa Public Radio.