Collaboration and coincidence help Massac schools upgrade their bandwidth

Massac School Upgrade

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Timing may not be everything, but it counts for a lot. For Massac Unit School District #1, good timing, persistence, and a collaborative approach have allowed three elementary schools to finally upgrade to scalable fiber-optic connections.
This rural school district in Illinois had long wanted to upgrade their network so they could eventually implement a 1:1 device program for their 2,200 students, but budget constraints and limited provider options kept them from realizing this goal.
While four schools already had access to sufficient bandwidth, the remaining three schools were constrained by low-bandwidth DSL and microwave connections.
In search of a feasible solution, Massac USD reached out to EducationSuperHighway for support through the Illinois Classroom Connectivity Initiative.
 

SETTING THE STAGE FOR A PRODUCTIVE COLLABORATION

At Massac’s request, EducationSuperHighway researched and proposed solutions to provide Internet access via fiber for the three elementary schools that needed to be upgraded: Franklin Elementary School, Jefferson Elementary School, and Unity Elementary School.
Located in outlying areas, each of the schools were receiving Internet service from different providers. However, even on their best days, download speeds were not fast enough to support each class’s digital programs:

  • 15-20 Mbps for Franklin Elementary
  • 50 Mbps for Jefferson Elementary
  • 10 Mbps for Unity Elementary

After reviewing our proposed solutions, Massac Technology Director Tom Walker reached out to Clearwave, a service provider that, coincidentally, was already working on a fiber build project nearby with a large local bank and community college. Because of the existing project, Clearwave agreed not to charge Massac any upfront construction costs to extend fiber to its elementary schools.
Between these savings and their 80% E-rate discount, Massac fully expects the upgrade to be well within their budget.
 

RESULTS

Clearwave completed construction work on the new fiber line to the elementary schools. In addition, the high school now has one direct Internet access line with WAN links to the remaining schools.
Walker explained that being able to lean on EducationSuperHighway for advice and feedback “was hugely helpful,” in part because we were a neutral third party rather than a vendor.
 

 “It was a great starting point and guide…especially after
the initial research. I really liked hearing that
there may have been other interested parties.
Especially in rural areas, sometimes we’d have no idea.”

 
All seven Massac campuses are now on fiber with a new provider and a new network architecture. The elementary schools have a fiber line receiving 1 Gbps of service, which will make it possible in the future for Massac to roll out that 1:1 device policy throughout the district.
 

“I thought [ESH’s technical assistance] was super
smooth. You were all able to provide us with
exactly what we needed; having 1 Gbps service
to every area in our district says a lot.”

 

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Broadband activities are revving up in the Bay State. The timing is not a coincidence: with President Biden signing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act into law in November 2021, and NTIA subsequently releasing Notices of Funding Opportunity which outline the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, Digital Equity Act, and Enabling Middle Mile Grant Infrastructure program in May 2022, states and localities find themselves in a new era of funding opportunities to finally close the digital divide. To connect the unconnected to affordable broadband, EducationSuperHighway has teamed up with organizations across Massachusetts to take advantage of this opportunity in three separate areas, described below.

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