SC plans to build Wi-Fi across state, give out laptops to 8th graders

Proposal would distribute laptops to 50,000 eighth graders - and build a wireless network to cover the entire state at a cost of $30 million.

A new proposal introduced in the South Carolina legislature would give every eighth-grader a laptop computer - and the state would develop a statewide wireless network, reports the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

"This will give South Carolina a unique competitive advantage in terms of economic development and will liberate students who are stuck in weak schools," said Sen. Jim Ritchie, a Republican, one of the architects of the plan.

If the plan is approved, about 50,000 eighth-graders could receive a laptop when the 2007-08 school year begins in August. South Carolina would be the first state in the nation to provide every student a computer, said Ritchie.

Although the schools will retain ownership of the laptops, students have the option of buying them after they graduate.

Funding for the technology would run about $10 million a year, with additional funding coming from the private sector.

The wireless network would cost an additional $30 million a year. A separate joint resolution introduced Tuesday would create a commission to implement the network.

Richie hopes the network would create revenue for the state because private companies would pay to use state assets.

"Students in underperforming schools would have access to distance learning, and it increases the options for adult education," he said. "It has the potential to revolutionize rural health care by delivering treatment through an Internet connection."

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