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Filner seeking $6 million to fund communications network for Imperial County schools, government

April 19, 2002|By MATT YOUNG

Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) — Rep. Bob Filner, D-Chula Vista, asked a House appropriations subcommittee Thursday to approve $6 million for a high-speed communications network for Imperial County schools and government agencies.

‘‘Students are denied the Internet access that makes the 21st century function," Filner said.

The county's poverty and isolation are what contributes to the lack of Internet capability, he said. The Imperial Irrigation District has offered to provide fiber-optic cable and remote Internet connection capabilities for the county's network free of charge, but many schools and county agencies need federal money to complete their own infrastructure, said John Anderson, the county school superintendent.

Already local school districts, cities and the county have spent $17 million on computer equipment and local computer networking, Anderson said. The county received more than $1 million in state and other grants for computer connectivity, according to Filner.

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‘‘For every dollar we are asking the federal government for, three dollars have been provided by local agencies,'' Filner said.

Subcommittee member Randy Cunningham, R-Del Mar, said, ‘‘They do need help — I don't know if we can put in $6 million with all the requests we have — but we want to help.''

Said Anderson: ‘‘All (local) schools have right now is some low band width,'' which makes Web connection slow.

With fiber-optics connecting to the Internet, ‘‘Kids could visit a zoo back East almost live,'' he said.

Anderson said many rural schools don't have the resources to offer advanced placement courses. Children from those schools could participate in online programs if better Internet connectivity were installed.

‘‘There's no reason we should be left behind in the digital age,'' Anderson said.

Some schools in rural parts of the county have T1 Internet connections, he said. T1 is one form of higher-speed Internet connection.

‘‘With a single T1, 30 people could watch streaming video on different computers at the same time,'' said Brian Weisberg, a software engineer for IBM in Boston.

But Sue Hess, superintendent and principal at Mulberry School in a rural area near Brawley, said her school does not have a T1 and its connection speed is much slower.

Anderson said the new communications network would allow community service people such as firefighters in rural areas to get better training without leaving their stations or offices.

He is up for re-election in November, and if he wins, he would represent Imperial County beginning in January as a result of redistricting.

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