When students at Woodman School, on the western edge of Montana, are working on research projects in class, they don’t have the option to start their search with Google.

If teachers want kids to use online resources in class, they must take home a classroom set of laptops and download the information to each computer in preparation for the school day.

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, to learn that Woodman is part of the 6 percent of public school districts that still don’t meet federal connectivity benchmarks. These districts serve 6.5 million students nationwide.

Woodman School gets its internet through DSL service. That’s typically the slowest possible way to get an internet connection. Fiberoptic connections are generally the fastest. That’s what Woodman School would like to get.

Luckily for Woodman and schools like it, the federal government has a pot of money set aside to pay for projects like this. Since 2014, a primary goal of the E-rate program has been to ensure affordable access to high-speed broadband in the nation’s schools.

These projects seem to be coming under special scrutiny by the organization that administers E-rate for the Federal Communications Commission, the Universal Service Administrative Company. Marwell said districts are waiting for decisions about funding for fiber projects for an average of nine months – far longer than normal – and when the decisions do come, they are often denials.

“A typical E-rate project gets denied at a 4 percent rate,” Marwell said. “For these projects, it’s close to 30 percent.”

Read the full article on high-speed internet for rural schools by Tara García Mathewson at The Hechinger Report