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How a New Hampshire Tech Director Convinced His School District to Upgrade to Fiber

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In addition to being the technology director for SAU#19 (Serving the Goffstown and New Boston, NH, School Districts), Gary Girolimon is a certified teacher. With a Master’s Degree in Education in Instructional Technology, he understood both the technical nuances of school broadband and the real-life implications of classroom connectivity.

Gary knew that if technology is to be successfully integrated into the curriculum, it needs to be trouble-free. In an ideal classroom, teachers and students wouldn’t even think twice about their devices, because those devices would simply work.

“When I learned that leasing dark fiber was a possibility for the school district, and that E-rate would support the construction and monthly charges, I immediately knew it was the way we needed to go.”

After leaving a corporate technology management position in 2002, Girolimon wanted to put his master’s degree to work. To prepare for interviewing for a K-12 technology position, Gary spoke with several local tech directors. In doing so, he learned about E-rate and its importance in funding a school district’s Internet access. And having managed previous fiber builds in private industry, he was well-equipped to take Goffstown’s technology program to greater heights.

Pitching Fiber to the School Board

“Our previous infrastructure was no longer delivering the performance that we needed for the programs and services that we wanted to provide to our students.”

Prior to their fiber upgrade, all six schools in SAU#19 had cable modem-based Internet connections and a costly, low-bandwidth wide area network. With cable, the downstream bandwidth was marginally adequate for static content. As such, the districts had to greatly restrict any media-rich classroom activities; their connection simply could not support it. These restrictions put dampers on the experiences that teachers were able to offer in their classrooms. The upstream bandwidth was completely incapable of serving any content, requiring the district to co-locate its Internet servers at external providers.

Gary spent considerable time talking with his school board about the benefits of a fiber infrastructure, the projected savings, and the very short return on investment for the project. He also made sure that the fiber build made financial sense to him. As he puts it, “Gobs of bandwidth is cool, but there has to be a cost justification—especially if you’re dealing with the public money.”

To assess the costs and value of a fiber build for Goffstown, Gary spoke extensively with a range of vendors. He had to be persistent to get a clear sense of the options, and even more so to eventually convince a vendor to offer the type of fiber service that made financial sense.

Through his RFP, Gary specified leased dark fiber, which the school district would light with their own hardware and manage themselves.

The Benefit of Long-Term Savings

Goffstown lit their dark fiber service two years ago, and the district has seen incredible results. Not only has the technology been functioning seamlessly, but the district has also saved a great deal of money on the service itself, and on the hardware and services that they were able to eliminate with this new infrastructure. By deploying self-managed dark fiber rather than using lit services, SAU#19 has far greater bandwidth at much lower cost.

“Picture what your school district would look like if bandwidth were unlimited – talk to various vendors; don’t just focus on one vendor or one way of doing things.”

Learn more about upgrading to a fiber-optic connection.

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