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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

This just in: Arkansans support motherhood, apple pie and government broadband for schools

Posted By on Wed, Sep 3, 2014 at 8:53 AM

The lobbying effort continues by a Walton-financed group pushing for state takeover of providing broadband service to public schools.

Latest is polling, reported by Talk Business, by the private lobby group FASTER Arkansas. A majority of Arkansans said "you bet!" to their questions about providing faster Internet service to public schools at a lower cost to create more job opportunities and level the playing field with those greedheads in the private telecomm business. Oh, and — YES! — they favor a special legislative session to get this done RIGHT NOW, just as Gov. Mike Beebe wants to do as a going-away resume builder.

Word your survey right and I bet you could get majority support from Arkansans to provide faster delivery of groceries, hardware and housewares at lower cost by a government-financed system to "level the playing field" with the private sector likes of Walmart and Dollar General.

Don't mistake my snark. I think a strong argument can be made for government-provided broadband. I wish, in fact, that somebody would push it beyond public schools and into home and business delivery of broadband as Chattanooga has done. It has proven faster and cheaper there and a huge boon to economic development. Why stop at the schoolhouse door?

Phone companies, I'd guess, are open to a compromise that allows the state to compete with them and that ends the state Department of Information Services stranglehold on the school computer network, a high-cost and outmoded system, most seem to agree. Why Beebe can't do anything about a state executive agency without a lot of outside help is an interesting question.

UPDATE: The survey results just arrived tardily here.

Here's a full accounting of the survey summary.
Note the survey is infected at the outset by describing a "public-private partnership" delivery model. As we've learned, this is a feel-good phrase that sometimes can mean radically different things. Sometimes it means the public pays the tab and private industry reaps the benefits. Note, too, that nearly 60 percent believe the statement that private companies have invested already to provide the necessary infrastructure to schools and a majority express some skepticism in terms of whether this issue has been oversold. Still, after hearing fulsome supporting statements and somewhat less glowing opposing statements, a majority go with the solution favored by the people who paid for the poll. Not exactly a surprise. Who isn't for better technology?

Here are some results on general attitudes.
Interesting things here: Respondents generally: think Arkansas, but not the U.S., is on the right track; approve of the legislature (my emphasis); think the economy is the top election issue (just ahead of health care); think K-12 education is fair to excellent (80 percent, about half of those good to excellent). 

PS — Thanks to Lance Turner at Arkansas Business for this link on the slowness of the Internet in Arkansas, slower than any state but Alaska. Note in the article that the U.S. — exceptional in all ways according to your average GOP politician — ranks 12th in the world in Internet speed. And phone service costs more, too.

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