Broadband grants include $63M for 100-gigabit research network

“It’s not a luxury,” said Goldman, who served on a panel last October that discussed sparse high-speed web connections in western Massachusetts with Gov. Deval Patrick. “It’s as essential as electricity … especially for students.”

Goldman said course-management system web sites assembled by faculty members are essentially inaccessible away from UMass Amherst’s high-speed web network.

Dial-up connections in Shutesbury and other towns in the western part of the state don’t allow students to watch video clips assigned by their professors, he said.

“It just doesn’t compute with people,” Goldman said. “When you tell someone you don’t have [broadband internet], they think you just choose not to have the service because you’re some weird radical or something. … There’s disbelief that this problem even exists.”

Students and faculty at Brigham Young University’s Rexburg, Idaho, campus will benefit from a $5 million federal grant that will “close a 38-mile gap” in the Silver Star Telephone Company’s 159-mile fiber optic network in southeast Idaho. The revamped fiber optics will connect five counties with 26,000 people to high-speed internet, according to the White House.

Altogether, the grants announced July 2 will benefit more than 2,400 K-12 schools and higher-education institutions across all 50 states, federal officials said.

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