LITTLE ROCK – Gov. Asa Hutchinson announced Thursday the completion of the Arkansas Public School Computer Network, a high-speed broadband upgrade for every public school in the state.

The completion of the two-year project means the delivery of secure, high-speed broadband to 293 public schools, charter schools, education-service cooperatives and telecommunications providers statewide.

Arkansas is now one of six states in the nation to achieve at least 100 kilobits per second per student in 100 percent of its school districts, according to the governor’s office. The state not only met that standard but doubled it, providing a minimum of 200 kbps per student. The new system is 40 times faster than the previous network.

“In 2015, when I issued the directive to connect all our schools, I didn’t know exactly how it would look, but I knew for sure that information systems and the education department would get the job done,” Hutchinson said in a statement. “They did, and the final product looks grand. Not only are we leading the way, we surpassed the federal goals and set a standard for the rest of the nation.”

When Hutchinson issued the directive to Arkansas Department of Information Systems and the Arkansas Department of Education to build a network to meet the federal Internet access target of 100 kbps per student, 58 percent of Arkansas districts were meeting that target.

The new network provides bandwidth speeds to allow students to access online courses and conduct online research and internet-based class projects, such as coding and virtual field trips.

DIS Director Yessica Jones said in a statement, “Because Arkansas is a rural state, many of our school districts were falling into that digital divide cited in study after study of the national broadband environment. A national organization said Arkansas had an unprecedented opportunity to lead the nation in upgrading the internet access to its K-12 schools in a comprehensive and cost-effective way. Today, I am proud to say we did it.”

State Education Commissioner Johnny Key said, “In order to accomplish our vision of transforming Arkansas to lead the nation in student-focused education, our students must have access to high-speed Internet. The partnership between ADE and DIS has helped make this bandwidth goal a reality for every student in the state. Because of this accomplishment, the learning opportunities for all students are endless.”