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Arkansas schools deserve high-speed internet 

Helping monopolies, not school children

Many Arkansas schools don't have sufficiently high-speed Internet. A task force of lawmakers, education officials and business leaders recently recommended that K-12 schools use the existing fiber optic network connecting Arkansas's public universities, the Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network (ARE-ON). One problem: By law, they're not allowed to access the network. In 2011, the Arkansas General Assembly quietly passed a telecom-industry-sponsored piece of legislation that keeps just about everyone aside from hospitals and universities off the network. Of the 42 states with regional fiber optic networks, only Arkansas doesn't extend service to K-12 schools. The law should be repealed.

Can we bill Rapert?

Federal Judge Susan Webber Wright ordered the state of Arkansas to pay more than $69,000 in the lawsuit striking down the state's ban on most abortions at 12 weeks of pregnancy. Thank Sen. Jason Rapert, the sponsor of this bill, and the Republicans in the legislature for overriding Gov. Mike Beebe's veto. Beebe said the bill was unconstitutional, as did anyone else with any familiarity with federal court precedent, which prohibits abortion bans before a fetus is viable, a point 10 weeks or more later than this bill sets.

Bad ROI

USA Today recently released its annual survey of sports revenues and spending by the nation's colleges. The University of Arkansas ranked 14th among 230 Division I schools in 2013 with $99.7 million in revenues.

You'd think a school controlled in large measure by Walton money would be bottom-line oriented. Team rankings (i.e. don't come near to corresponding to revenue.

Meanwhile, Evin Demirel at the Sports Seer blog notes that the gap between revenues at the UA and the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff ($7.1 million) is the largest intra-system disparity in the country.

New tech leader

The Little Rock Technology Park Authority voted to hire Brent Birch, director of the web design firm FLEX360 at Arkansas Business Publishing Group and ABPG's chief information officer, to direct the tech park. Birch built an internal startup from scratch, so he should at least be able to speak the language of business incubation. Here's hoping he has political skills to match. He'll need them if the path forward for the tech park resembles the train wreck that's preceded.

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