Tag: "school"

Posted May 16, 2013 by lgonzalez

Back in December, 2009, Vice President Biden travelled to Dawsonville, Georgia, to officially kick off the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) program. The first award, a grant of $33.5 million, went to the North Georgia Network Cooperative. The group combined that grant with local and state funding and in May, 2012, lit the North Georgia Network (NGN).

We spoke with Paul Belk, CEO of NGN, who shared the network's story and described how it is improving economic development while serving schools and government across the region. We also recently published a podcast interview with Paul Belk.

In 2007, Bruce Abraham was the Lumpkin County Development Authority President and could not recruit new business to the region. Atlanta is only 60 miles away but companies and entrepeneurs were not willing to branch out toward north Georgia. Business leaders repeatedly told Abraham they were not interested because of the lack of broadband. DSL was available from Windstream, but businesses kept telling Abraham, "That's not broadband." North Georgia was losing jobs and there was no strategy to replace them.

Abraham found economic development representatives from Forsyth, White, Union, and Dawson counties shared the same problem. With North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, the group decided to address the problem together.

In 2008, they received a OneGeorgia Authority BRIDGE grant. They used the $100,000 award to commission a feasibility study that suggested the area had potential as a new tech hub. The study also indicated that the region's traditional manufacturing and agricultural industries would continue to dwindle. The group, determined to pursue the establishment of a new tech economy, knew the first step would be next-generation infrastructure.

In 2009, two local electric cooperatives joined the group and it incorporated to become the nonprofit North Georgia Network Cooperative. With the addition of the Habersham and Blue Ridge Mountain...

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Posted May 14, 2013 by christopher

The North Georgia Network was the first recipient of a BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) stimulus grant in the nation and has been an interesting success story. For the latest episode of our Community Broadband Bits podcast, President and CEO Paul Belk of the NGN joins us to discuss the history, present, and future of the project.

The North Georiga Network is comprised of two rural electric cooperatives and local economic development organizations affiliated with eight counties. NGN is focused on bringing high capacity connections to community anchor institutions and businesses.

Paul discusses how the project began, long before the stimulus programs were envisioned. As fits with our experience, the first motivation was attracting jobs. Stuck with slow DSL connections, the region was having trouble attracting any investment. Now they have a fresh start and can deliver ultra high speed connections to schools affordably as well as businesses.

Read the transcript from our conversation here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 20 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to Mount Carmel for the music, licensed using Creative Commons.

Posted May 6, 2013 by lgonzalez

We recently learned about Aztec, New Mexico's, free downtown Wi-Fi  so we decided to contact Wallace Begay, the IT Director, to find out more. This desert community of about 6,600 people not only offers the free service, but uses its fiber to serve government, schools, and even four-legged residents.

Begay tells us that in 1998 the city and school system coordinated to install the original fiber and the entities share ownership. The school wanted better, affordable connectivity for students while the city wanted economic development opportunities. Community leaders used E-rate funding and a Gates Foundation grant to construct the original fiber aerial route.

The town provides water, wastewater, and electric services through municipal utilities with its SCADA system. The public library and all ten Aztec Municipal School facilities connect to the fiber network. Municipal government facilities also use the network.

Even though the city is a co-owner, it took several years for municipal offices to get on the fiber network. Aztec City Council originally decided to install the fiber network as a way to bring in revenue by leasing dark fiber, not as a way to connect offices. When Begay started at the city in 2001, administrative offices still used dial-up connections. Twenty dial-up accounts (and the crawling speeds associated with them) added up to $500 each month.

At the time, Qwest (not CenturyLink) was the provider in Aztec and could only offer microwave or copper connections. Connecting 13 facilities at 1.4 Mbps would have cost the city $1,200 each month. Begay used $500 from the electrical enterprise fund to purchase equipment and pay for tech labor to move municipal offices on to the existing network. The city electrical enterprise fund pays for expansions and updates. The network is now about 12 miles.

Begay is especially pleased about the 2004 expansion to the Aztec Animal Control facility, serving all of San Juan County. Before the expansion, Animal Control also used dial-up and spent a significant amount of time fielding calls from worried pet...

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Posted May 1, 2013 by lgonzalez

Community leaders in Medina County, Ohio, recently celebrated the completion of the Medina County Fiber Network (MCFN). Loren Grenson of the Medina Gazette reported on the celebratory breakfast event where officials proclaimed, “The monopoly is dead. Long live the fiber loop."

Local businesses already rave about the county owned MCFN, which offers Internet access, data tranport, and dark fiber leasing. From the article:

Automation Tool and Die in Brunswick is one of 20 entities already tied into the fiber network. The network provides better service to the company’s four buildings in Brunswick’s Northern Industrial Park, said Jacob Mohoric, company IT manager.

“It’s a blazing-fast Internet connection at all four of our buildings at an effective cost,” Mohoric said.

Company co-owner J. Randy Bennett said the network provided the first decent bandwidth for his company since it moved to Brunswick in 1983.

“We had no good bandwidth source and we paid through the nose for what we did have,” Bennett said.

Last July, the Highland School District was near the end of an expensive contract with Time Warner Cable. The network was not complete, but enough MCFN infrastructure was in place to connect the schools for Internet and phone service. Highland Schools now pay about $82,000 less per year for connectivity.

Community leaders began working on the project over ten years ago. After years of planning, the Medina County Port Authority (MCPA) secured $14.4 million in bonds and a $1.4 million stimulus award. The stimulus funding is part of a 2010 grant to nonprofit OneCommunity, charged with extending fiber to 22 Ohio counties. OneCommunity will manage the network.

The 151-mile asset belongs to the MCPA but the entire community considers itself an "owner." Bethany Dentler, executive director of the Medina County Economic Development Corp., also spoke at the celebration:

Dentler said the 151 miles...

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Posted April 25, 2013 by lgonzalez

Ottawa, located in east central Kansas, recently launched its own municipal fiber network. The community of 13,000 in Franklin County watched nearby Chanute build and establish its own broadband utility. Ottawa plans a similar incremental strategy. Both communities boast strong farming traditions and host industrial employers that could not get what they needed from the existing providers.

I spoke with Chuck Bigham, IT Director for the City of Ottawa, who gave me some nuts and bolts on the network. I also touched base with City Manager Richard U. Nienstedt, both are heavily involved in the establishment of the network.

Like in Chanute, local leaders have long nourished a vision for better connectivity. In recent years, they realized the vision was not only attainable, but necessary for the community to thrive.

Approximately seventeen miles of fiber, installed by USD 290 and Franklin County in the 1990s, was already in the ground when the project began. Students and staff connected to the Internet and linked the 8-10 school district facilities via its fiber network. These pre-existing resources became the backbone of Ottawa's new utility. Cooperation between the City Municipal Utility, USD 290, and Franklin County facilitated the configuration of the new network. Ottawa now provides business Internet access, expanded educational opportunities, and a higher level of service than was previously available.

Two years ago, the City and its Chamber of Commerce reached out to major businesses to determine the need for broadband. They found businesses in Ottawa were connected through existing providers, but were unhappy with price and level of service. The community's industrial park seemed especially disadvantaged. Businesses needed better upload speeds than the existing T1s, which ran up to $600 per month. While DS3 connections were available, they were unaffordable and there was no level of service between the two options. Businesses could not convince AT&T to offer something they could afford and, as Bigham noted, the telecom giant appeared to be "milking the cow."

Map of Ottawa, Kansas

This is a common complaint among communities - the big national...

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Posted April 23, 2013 by christopher

Chief Information Officer for the Carroll County Public Schools Gary Davis joins me to explain why the Carroll County Government, Public Schools, Public Library, and Community College partnered to build their own fiber optic network. He is also the Chairman of the resulting Carroll County Public Network (CCPN) of Maryland.

The story starts the same as many others - the community anchors were paying too much and did not have access to the connectivity they needed. The telephone and cable companies (both massive international corporations) found higher returns on investment elsewhere and therefore could not justify improvements absent significant subsidy.

Gary explains the savings generated by the network and how it has benefited students attending the local schools. We recently covered the CCPN and its incredible savings for the community in a post here.

We also cover some basics of what some community anchor institutions need to ensure they can take advantage of modern technology.

Read the transcript from this podcast here.

We want your feedback and suggestions for the show - please e-mail us or leave a comment below. Also, feel free to suggest other guests, topics, or questions you want us to address.

This show is 30 minutes long and can be played below on this page or subscribe via iTunes or via the tool of your choice using this feed. Search for us in iTunes and leave a positive comment!

Listen to previous episodes here. You can can download this Mp3 file directly from here.

Find more episodes in our podcast index.

Thanks to Mount Carmel for the music, licensed using...

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Posted April 18, 2013 by lgonzalez

The City of Royal Oak, Michigan, a Detroit suburb and home to 57,000 residents, just announced it will be partnering with the school district to build a fiber optic network. According to the Royal Oak Patch, the cost is estimated at $400,000 and will link together eight city facilities and nine school buildings. According to the article:

“We are spending money now to save money long term,” said Manager of Information Systems Scott Newman.  “The new network will be much quicker, more reliable, have increased capacity, and cost the City less to operate.”

The cost of the project is being split between the City and the School District.  The School District will own and operate the network, and the City will have dedicated fiber for its share of the network’s capacity.  Construction is scheduled to begin this summer, and is planned to be completed this fall.

Update: We contacted Shawn Lewis-Larkin, Superintendent at Royal Oak Schools, for more detail on the project. He replied via email:

We obtained a price from a vendor for meeting the needs we have without constructing our own fiber network.  For 60 months the cost was going to be $775,656

vs.

Our 5 Year Cost to build and operate our cooperative network with the City will be $205,192.

Savings for Royal Oak Schools:  $570,463 Over 60 Months or yearly savings of $114,092

We are still amazed when public schools report such incredible savings, even though we encounter these savings on a regular basis.

Posted April 15, 2013 by lgonzalez

Carroll County is a bedroom community, with a variety of economies all around it. Washington, D.C., Camp David, Baltimore, Harrisburg, Fort Detrick, and the Aberdeen Proving Ground are a few of the places surrounding Carroll County. There is very little major transportation infrastructure and no major waterways. Many of the county's 167,000 people commute daily to jobs outside of the bullseye.

Gary Davis, Chief Information Officer at the Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) and Chairman of the Carroll County Public Network (CCPN) started at the school district in 2002 and immediately recognized that the telecommunications arrangement was insufficient.

Schools and other facilities were connected to the hub via 1.5 Mbps T1 connections and the whole wide-area-network was connected to the Internet via an expensive Frame Relay DS3 connection. The total cost ran as high as $600,000 per year.  

When CCPS approached Verizon about increasing bandwidth, Verizon’s proposal was extremely cost-prohibitive. Verizon wanted a long-term commitment that resulted in more than 10 times their current costs. Basically, Verizon would own the network but capital costs would be funded by CCPS and maintained with ridiculously high recurring fees. The return on investment for Verizon was just too low owing the community demographics.

At that time, Davis met Robert Wack of the Westminster City Council and the two compared notes. Davis' vision for Carroll County Public Schools and Wack's ideas for Westminster and Carroll County were very similar. Both involved a high-speed network and Westminster is currently involved in its own municipal network project (to be covered in an upcoming post).

A 2003 feasibility study on telecommunications upgrades for the school and a second broader feasibility study for the entire county in 2005 resulted in a loose confederation between CCPS, Carroll County Government, Carroll Community College, and the Carroll County Public Library system. Davis is proud of the fact that the CCPN has broken through past silos. The public sector has worked together in Carroll County, preventing the rampant duplication of efforts that used to be the norm. 

...

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Posted April 8, 2013 by lgonzalez

DC is the place to be May 1 - 3 to see how broadband and telecommunications policy will affect education, research, and healthcare. The Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition (SHLB) annual conference will be at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel.

The conference this year is titled "Getting to a Gigabit" and speakers will address a range of issues that will impact community anchor institutions, including E-Rate, BTOP and BIP funded projects, new programs developed to address the digital divide, state and local government broadband programs, and the Universal Services Fund.

A range of talented speakers will present, including Lawrence Strickling from the NTIA. Sunne McPeak from the California Emerging Technology Fund, Blair Levin, and a long list of other distinguished professionals in telecom.

You can still register to attend and there are also sponsorship opportunities available.

Posted April 8, 2013 by lgonzalez

Another county in Washington will soon be connected via a community owned fiber network. Peter Quinn, of the Economic Development Committee Team Jefferson, tells us that the Public Utility District of Jefferson County will be investing in the new infrastructure. The Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet), will operate the Jefferson County network for at least the next five years.

Nonprofit NoaNet has been expanding wholesale fiber infrastructure across Washington since 2000. NoaNet works with local communities to bring the fiber backbone to community anchor institutions (CAIs) such as schools, libraries, hospitals, and government facilities.

The Jefferson County project is funded with a $3.2 million American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) stimulus grant and a county contribution of $500,000. The network should measure approximately 70-100 miles, and connections to CAIs are expected to be 100 Mbps, however the planning is still in process.

The network will connect community anchor institutions including county schools, public safety facilities, city and county government facilities, several local libraries, healthcare clinics and hospitals, and state parks. Towns that will receive anchor connections include the City of Port Townsend, Port Ludlow, the Port of Port Townsend, Quilcene, Brinnon, and Chimacum. Approximately 90 community anchor institutions will be connected through fiber or the planned wireless network. Wireless will be offered where geography and expense preclude fiber installation.

Construction will start April 8th with a planned completion date of August 5th, 2013. Jefferson PUD will own the network and independent ISPs will provide service to the anchor institutions and have the option of expanding the network to serve local businesses and residents.

The plan is divided into three "tiers" and described on the Jefferson PUD Broadband Project website:

Tier 1 are anchor institutions that must have service to be compliant with the grant. 

Tier 2 are sites of anchor institutions that weren't initially submitted with the grant.

Tier 3 are locations that will be provided service if resources are available.

Tier 2 will include...

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