Colorado has been awarded a $100 million federal grant to create an affordable broadband network across the state.

Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. says the grant will provide underserved schools, libraries, colleges and communities with high-speed Internet access. The project has the potential to serve all 178 Colorado school districts, as well as 15 community colleges, 26 libraries, and three institutions of higher education. State officials say the network will be completed in 36 months.

The project addresses the lack of affordable high-capacity broadband access at many rural and underserved school districts and educational institutions, many of which still rely on outdated copper-based telecommunications facilities. Colorado ranks 42nd out of 50 states in broadband connectivity, and broadband service costs10 times that of neighboring states, officials say.