School may just be getting back into session, but EducationSuperHighway has been working this summer to help school districts upgrade their networks so that their students can take advantage of digital learning when they return to the classroom. This includes helping the students who attend Sauvie Island Academy, an independent K-8 public school based in the heart of Sauvie Island, just a few miles outside of Portland, Oregon. Over the past several months, our network consulting team helped the school receive Internet connectivity 11x faster than previous speeds.
Located on a large island in the middle of the Columbia River, Sauvie Island Academy faced several roadblocks to obtaining sufficient broadband speeds. The school had maxed out the connectivity speeds offered by the available T1 connections of approximately 9 Mbps. Recognizing that T1 lines would not be able to support the school’s need for 100 Mbps of bandwidth, the Academy sought to upgrade to fiber. Unfortunately, the Academy did not receive interest nor cost-effective proposals from local service providers. Unsure of how to proceed, Sauvie Island Academy’s Executive Director approached EducationSuperHighway for assistance with the school’s network upgrade. As part of our non-profit mission to upgrade the Internet access in all K-12 public schools in America, we provide network upgrade consulting to school districts at no cost.
In partnership with Sauvie Island Academy’s staff, our network experts tackled the upgrade challenge in three phases:
1. Understand the Broadband Landscape
First, EducationSuperHighway’s network consultants conducted an in-depth analysis of the island’s broadband landscape. This included discussions with field experts as well as area Internet service providers and fiber construction companies. The consultants quickly learned that very few of the island’s homes, businesses, and municipal buildings are connected to fiber, and, despite the fact that fiber is most often the only technology that can meet school districts’ growing bandwidth needs, attempting to connect Sauvie Island Academy to fiber would be cost prohibitive.
2. Identify Options
Upon learning this, the next step was to determine alternative solutions to fiber that would still provide Sauvie Island Academy with the speeds they need for digital learning. EducationSuperHighway and the Academy’s staff requested new network designs and cost estimates from service providers. We then tallied and compared these costs to identify project designs that would meet the Academy’s goals and budget, including available E-rate funding. Ultimately, the EducationSuperHighway team recommended a project design that met the needs of the school and made the most of the options available: a wireless microwave network solution. While not high-speed fiber, which is often the most sustainable and cost effective long-term solution for schools’ connectivity challenges, the microwave solution will meet the Academy’s current and future needs for the next several years and allow the school to realize significant savings. Upon approval from the leadership team and school board, the Academy decided to move forward with the recommended solution.
3. Implement the Solution
To expedite the upgrade process, EducationSuperHighway’s network consultants supported the Academy’s technical staff as they oversaw the implementation of the fixed wireless solution. Ultimately, the partnership between EducationSuperHighway and Sauvie Island Academy resulted in dramatically improved network speeds for all students at the school: as of July 2015, the Academy increased its Internet speeds from 9 Mbps to 100 Mbps and will realize annual savings equal to the salary of one full-time teacher. This increase means that students at Sauvie Island will be connected to the Internet at speeds over 11x faster than they were prior to the project. Students will now be able to engage with rich media in the classroom and take advantage of all of the digital learning opportunities afforded by robust connectivity.
Not only was the Academy’s leadership team happy with the increased speeds, but also appreciative of the collaboration with our team. As the Academy’s Director, Darla Meeuwsen shared, “EducationSuperHighway did a good job of listening to really understand the landscape of our connectivity challenges. I appreciated that EducationSuperHighway staff did not make a lot of assumptions right off the bat. I felt like the information and details I was offering were being heard and incorporated into the work. I felt like I was part of the solution.”
We are thrilled to have supported the design and implementation of an affordable and sustainable network upgrade for Sauvie Island Academy. Our team looks forward to sharing more stories of success as we continue to partner with school districts and schools nationwide to achieve our mission of upgrading the Internet access in all public schools in the country.