The Payson Unified School District this week signed onto a federally funded effort to bring high speed Internet to rural areas — including an antenna atop a building at the high school to receive a broadband signal.
The long promised, suddenly possible upgrade grew out of federal stimulus efforts to dramatically improve Internet access in rural communities nationwide.
The school board on Monday voted to join the Gila County Educational Technological Consortium as part of that effort.
Superintendent Casey O’Brien said that within a year the effort will set up a microwave antenna atop a high school building to connect the school to the broadband signal beamed from tower to tower throughout northern Arizona.
Similar relay antennas will sprout atop the police station, the Payson Public Library, Payson Regional Medical Center and a building on the Gila Community College campus.
The resulting network should significantly boost Internet speeds in town, perhaps provide a signal to unincorporated areas without cable access and improve emergency communications. The system could also provide wireless Internet on campus and perhaps increased speeds for things like Internet courses.
The Payson Unified School District already has an online set of courses in partnership with Mesa schools that it offers students in some key areas — especially to make up missing, core classes.
“It’s all part of a federal program to improve Internet access in rural communities,” said O’Brien. “Within a year, we should see the antennas mounted.