Updates to the E-rate program are helping schools make lasting investments in their broadband infrastructure by providing new options for funding fiber special construction projects. For most schools, fiber is the only network infrastructure technology that can scale cost-effectively to meet student’s growing bandwidth needs. One of the school districts taking advantage of this fiber opportunity is Darby School District, a small rural district in western Montana.
Committed to Providing Learning Opportunities for Students
Darby School District’s leaders are committed to using digital learning to expand students’ educational opportunities and improve academic performance. But with a low bandwidth connection and no access to fiber infrastructure, Superintendent Loyd Rennaker realized the importance of investing in scalable connectivity to help his students use digital learning more effectively. To supplement the high cost of building fiber to the district, Darby was fortunate to receive a private endowment to support the project, benefiting not only Darby students but also local businesses and the community at large.
Fiber Project with EducationSuperHighway
EducationSuperHighway’s team of network and procurement experts worked with Darby to create an upgrade plan, overcome limited service provider options, and navigate the use of E-rate funding to cover the majority of the cost of building fiber to their school district. Working with Superintendent Rennaker, our team calculated bandwidth requirements based on their unique digital learning goals, provided recommendations on potential service providers and service options based on a rigorous cost analysis; and reached out to a broad network of competitive service providers and construction companies to gain their interest in bidding on the project.
Recommended Lit Fiber Solution to Support Digital Learning
Our research showed that an investment in lit fiber was the most cost-effective option over 20 years when compared to the available microwave solutions in the area. We supported the school district in creating a Request for Proposal (RFP) that would leverage the new E-rate funding options for lit fiber, leased dark fiber, and self-construction, and this winter, they posted their RFP and FCC Form 470 to receive bids for all-fiber solutions. Darby received five viable bids and ultimately chose a provider that will construct fiber down an 18-mile stretch to their district and community this summer. Soon, Darby will be in a position to fully enable digitally rich classrooms for their students by going from 30 Mbps to 1 Gbps—33x more bandwidth!
In addition to helping Darby bring the promise of digital learning to their students in Montana, EducationSuperHighway is partnering with school districts in Arizona, New Mexico, Virginia, Texas, Illinois, and New Hampshire to provide the same type of direct support to plan, bid, and implement fiber upgrades. As a complement to our hands-on fiber consulting projects, we also created a Fiber Toolkit to help school districts across the country understand options for deploying fiber to their schools.
Check out our Fiber Toolkit for free tools and resources including the “Build Vs. Buy” comparison tool and RFP templates aligned with the new E-rate modernization rules.