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Delaware to Spend $20 Million in CARES Funding on Broadband

The state of Delaware will build more broadband infrastructure, conduct a speed test survey across its communities and help prepare students and teachers for distance learning with millions of CARES Act funds.

Delaware is dedicating $20 million of its CARE Act funds toward broadband solutions. 

The announcement came yesterday from Gov. John Carney, CIO James Collins and Secretary of Education Susan Bunting. The money will go toward broadband infrastructure, a statewide survey on Internet speed and resources for families who can’t afford equipment and services. 

Carney said this effort will support Delaware’s commitment over the last two years “to eliminate Internet deserts and make high-speed Internet a reality for all Delawareans.”

The Delaware Department of Education has also put $566,000 of its CARES Act dollars toward the Rural Wireless Broadband Initiative. This means that construction on 15 towers that are being built in Kent and Sussex counties will be done well ahead of a projected December 2020 completion date. The initiative could help more than 1,500 people in rural areas. 

Part of the thrust behind the state’s decision is to give students from low-income families a way to get connected for both remote and hybrid learning during the school year. In the press release, Bunting said both students and educators needed better Internet service. 

“These past few months, our staff was tasked with the great challenge of providing remote instruction, a concept that really transformed how we taught our students and more importantly how we could serve their needs,” said Elyse Baerga, student services supervisor for Woodbridge School District, in a statement. “This task seemed almost insurmountable as we learned how many of our students and staff lived in remote areas with little Internet reliability or connectivity. The state’s commitment towards improving these conditions is critical to our students’ continued success.”

In a statement, Collins said the state will also look for other opportunities to bring digital equity to all of Delaware. 

“We know that access to high-speed broadband is as essential as any public utility, and the COVID-19 pandemic made that need even more evident — the day of reckoning for broadband is here,” Collins said. “ We are very much encouraged by the significant progress that has been made, but we have more to do.

Jed Pressgrove has been a writer and editor for about 15 years. He received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in sociology from Mississippi State University.