PBS NewsHour Investigates: Slow Internet Holding Students Back in Calhoun County, Mississippi


This week, PBS NewsHour investigated how schools with the slowest Internet in the country can get re-wired. In fact, about 10% of students across the country (mostly in rural areas) have an inadequate broadband infrastructure. PBS NewsHour met with students in Calhoun County, Mississippi where 20% don’t have adequate broadband access. In some Calhoun County schools, Internet access is so bad that students can’t even do basic research online.

C.J. WEDDLE:The Internet is very contrary at Vardaman High School. You have good, you have bad days, but at Vardaman, you have more bad than good.

JOHN TULENKO: Schools here have the slowest Internet service in all of Mississippi.

C.J. WEDDLE: History classes are limited to books and worksheets. Well, you don’t do research on significant figures in history or significant figures the government now, and that — I think that’s really going to hurt us later. You know, why be limited to that, when there’s a whole world at your fingertips or potentially could be?

JOHN TULENKO: The Internet here is slow because it comes via old copper wires running for miles underground. Even though high-speed cables have been laid by a phone company on one side of the district, on the other side, a second company has said upgrading its service is too expensive. Without those new cables, there is no high-speed Internet for schools and students like Pam Odom’s sixth graders.

Recently, Calhoun County became one of the first districts to seek federal funds in an attempt to build their own fiber network. In the face of this newfound competition, local providers offered the school a better contract.

Millions of students are needlessly unfairly disadvantaged because of inadequate broadband. The competition helped Calhoun County, and it can help similar counties across the nation. There is no better time to try COMPETIFY and get students the access they deserve.