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Governor sending roving internet service to some rural students

Gov. Brian Kemp and AT&T are sending 448 Wi-Fi devices to 36 rural school districts that will mount them in buses. It’s an idea that other school districts, including the Marietta City School System in metro Atlanta, have used to address a lack of reliable internet service among students studying at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this semester, Marietta installed WiFi hotspots on 12 school buses that parked across the city, providing access from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.
Gov. Brian Kemp and AT&T are sending 448 Wi-Fi devices to 36 rural school districts that will mount them in buses. It’s an idea that other school districts, including the Marietta City School System in metro Atlanta, have used to address a lack of reliable internet service among students studying at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this semester, Marietta installed WiFi hotspots on 12 school buses that parked across the city, providing access from 9 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

Georgia will chip away at the internet learning gap by sending 448 mobile Wi-Fi devices to three dozen school districts that will mount them on roving buses.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced teachers and students from their schools and into their homes to finish the semester online, but little teaching and learning can occur when many, particularly in rural areas, lack reliable internet service.

Some school districts, including Marietta in metro Atlanta, have already hit on the idea as a way to temporarily provide service to those who lack it. The state has already assembled a website that indicates where free service —typically in library parking lots — is available. These new hotspots, which Gov. Brian Kemp's office is calling a "Wi-Fi Ranger," will expand on that. They can each connect up to 45 laptops, tablets, phones and other devices at a range of a hundred feet.

The 36 school systems — a fifth of the 180 in the state — were chosen based on student poverty and the number of students they can supply with computers or other devices. Rural districts with the worst academic performance were the priority. Kemp’s office said Tuesday that studies indicate rural students are nearly 15 times more likely to lack internet access outside of school. The service will supply internet to thousands of Georgia’s 1.8 million students, his office said.

The devices are being deployed with the help of AT&T, which is providing two months of free service. Grants will extend that to five months.

School officials will choose where to send their buses. Due to the range of the signals — imagine a dish the diameter of two football fields lined up end-to-end, with the bus at the center — students and teachers will be able sit nearby while accessing the internet at a safe distance from one another.


These 36 school districts will get Wi-Fi Rangers:

Baldwin County

Barrow County

Bleckley County

Brooks County

Bryan County

Butts County

Calhoun City Schools

Calhoun County

Camden County

Dooly County

Emanuel County

Floyd County

Franklin County

Glynn County

Greene County

Jackson County

Jasper County

Laurens County

Liberty County

Madison County

McIntosh County

Miller County

Mitchell County

Morgan County

Murray County

Paulding County

Pike County

Putnam County

Rockdale County

Schley County

Screven County

Turner County

Walker County

Washington County

Wilcox County

Wilkes County