Montgomery – The Alabama House on Tuesday awarded its approval to the Wireless Infrastructure Renovation for Education Act, which is more commonly known as the “WIRED Act” and would provide wireless broadband access in all of the state’s K-12 public schools.
The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Donnie Chesteen (R – Geneva) and championed by Rep. Bill Poole (R-Tuscaloosa) the House Education Budget Committee Chair, is included in the House Republican Caucus’s “Right for Alabama Agenda” that was announced prior to the session’s start.
“Passage of the WIRED Act will place Alabama first in the nation in terms of broadband access in public school classrooms,” Chesteen said. “For many years, Alabama was at the bottom of most public school performance measures, but this legislation will allow us to lead the way in providing 21st Century technology and infrastructure without making additional demands on Alabama taxpayers.”
The WIRED Act will provide grants to local school systems for the purchase, installation, or upgrade of wireless broadband infrastructure by leveraging available federal e-rate dollars.
School systems that have already purchased wireless broadband that meets standards may use the grants to purchase wireless devices, pay off existing debt dedicated toward wireless capabilities, or purchase other hardware or software needed to enhance the digital learning environment.
Each school system would be required to develop a detailed technology plan, and the State Department of Education would provide a report on implementation progress to the chairmen of both chambers’ education budget committees twice a year.
“I would like to recognize Senator Dial for his vision and his tireless leadership on this issue and I look forward to continuing to work closely with him,” Chesteen said. “If Alabama’s workforce is going to continue competing with other states for jobs, investment, and economic development projects in the future, access to wireless broadband in the classroom is not just an option, it is an absolute necessity.”
The bill now goes to the State Senate for consideration.