Leaders in Yavapai County in Arizona are no strangers to the challenges associated with connecting students to high-speed Internet. Mountainous and rugged terrain has led to large stretches of Arizona still unable to access modern broadband Internet because service providers are unable to build a strong enough business case to extend services to remote sites. What’s more, small schools with limited staff capacity and budget available for technology are often in these remote areas, making upgrading a school’s network in rural Arizona especially challenging.
One practical solution to these challenges is for neighboring districts to join together to form a purchasing consortium, which is exactly what county leaders in Yavapai County did. They formed the Yavapai County Educational Technology Consortium (YCETC) and this year are hoping to leverage federal and state dollars to cover all public school districts, charter schools, and libraries within Yavapai County. Together, they made a commitment to identify and obtain the most cost effective source of broadband for school and library budgets.
After partnering with EducationSuperHighway and tapping into the Arizona Sun Corridor Network, a research and education network, YCETC’s leaders released a combined request for proposal (RFP) and E-rate Form 470 in December. Thanks to the consortium, individual school districts, charter schools, and libraries are a part of a network with 144 locations across the region that can be served by prospective providers. The school districts’ purchasing power has grown exponentially through this process, leading YCETC to believe this will increase competition and result in higher speeds at lower costs for all. Most importantly, “with very tight school and library budgets, this will give them opportunity to reallocate their funds to other areas,” says Stan Goligoski, Executive Director of the Yavapai County Education Services Agency.
Attaining ubiquitous high-speed broadband access will have an enormous impact on the Yavapai County community – especially in rural areas. “This capability will allow these schools and libraries to expand their curriculum and tap into other education resources offered through online education entities,” says Goligoski.
YCETC’s work is one example of the State of Arizona’s commitment to connecting schools and communities across the state. The Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative, jointly launched by the Governor’s Office of Education, Arizona Department of Education, the Arizona Corporation Commission and EducationSuperHighway, supports school districts and charter schools to ensure that all students in Arizona have access to high-speed Internet that will allow them to take advantage of a 21st century education.
Interested in upgrading your district? Find your school district on Compare & Connect K-12 and contact the State E-rate Coordinator, Milan Eaton, at Milan.Eaton@azed.gov to get started.