Texas school district overcomes challenges in pursuit of Wide Area Network upgrade

Lubbock Independent School District aims to support a thriving culture of digital learning in its schools by ensuring teachers and students have more than enough bandwidth. With 51 schools located in West Texas, Lubbock has struggled to find affordable options to serve their nearly-thirty thousand students. Undeterred by the lack of competition, CTO Terry Driscoll and Director of Technology Bill Lovelace realized the importance of investing in a high-capacity Wide Area Network (WAN) to empower their teachers and students, and went out in search of all possible options.

If you build it, they will come

With more access to online instructional tools, video streaming, and blended learning, the demand for bandwidth can become a bottleneck to enabling digital learning opportunities for students. At Lubbock ISD, Terry Driscoll took an innovative approach to solving this problem with an “if you build it, they will come” mentality. Understanding that teachers in the district would gradually grow more confident using technology in the classroom, the district technology team began scaling up the district’s connectivity. While monitoring network usage, Driscoll was astounded at what he saw: bandwidth usage began doubling every four months as teachers across the district began implementing digital learning.

State funding support disappears

While all schools in Lubbock ISD are fortunate to be on scalable fiber connections, the expiration of the Texas Legislature’s House Bill 2128 meant the district was concerned that it would mean the end to affordable broadband services for their schools. Without this discount on telecommunications services, Lubbock ISD faced an untenable price increase from their current provider. For Driscoll, this meant that “we were either going to be stuck with our provider and our current bandwidth, or we could choose a dramatic change.” With the support of EducationSuperHighway’s Fiber Toolkit, the district opted to seek out a better alternative.

Fiber proves to be the best option

To help identify provider options, Bill Lovelace used the Fiber Toolkit’s Request for Proposal (RFP) templates to build out specifications for lit and leased dark fiber WAN solutions. Driscoll and Lovelace chose the most cost-effective among nine bid responses, and will be upgrading with a fiber solution from Unite Private Networks (UPN) this summer, receiving significantly more bandwidth for a reduction to their previous monthly bill. While working with UPN, Driscoll also appreciated the flexibility for future bandwidth increases without increases to the district’s monthly recurring cost. Thanks to the district leadership’s forward thinking, their schools will be well-provisioned with scalable, affordable connectivity to meet the future learning needs of their teachers and students.

Start preparing for increased bandwidth need now

Tech Director Tips-01Lubbock ISD’s successful investment in infrastructure to support them in the longterm is one of many examples of school districts taking advantage of the new E-rate modernization rules. Driscoll is quick to emphasize that school leaders should start preparing for increased bandwidth need now, recommending that districts should “get in there early and start to ask questions of your vendors. Make sure you understand what’s next from your current services and whether you need to be considering alternatives.” Despite the challenges Texas school districts face as a result of losing the House Bill 2128 discount, with the updates to the E-rate program there is an opportunity for districts to follow Lubbock’s lead and proactively seek out more affordable options that will scale to meet their students’ future needs.

Thinking about upgrading? Check out our Fiber Toolkit for free tools and resources including the RFP templates Lubbock used and the “Build Vs. Buy” comparison tool
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