Rural New Mexico school district upgrades to fiber; gives students greater access to digital learning

Located in the rural southeast corner of New Mexico near the Texas border, Jal Public Schools struggled with slow copper T-1 connections to support the Internet needs of their nearly 500 students. According to David Verschueren, the school district’s Technology Director, “streaming instructional videos was a big issue for our teachers. Most of them had to wait a long time for videos to buffer, which would take away from their time teaching. Also, teachers were asking to use more instructional programs to help students with their unique [learning] needs – but they all required the Internet.”

Jal Public Schools wasn’t the only one experiencing these issues, so the state of New Mexico partnered with EducationSuperHighway to help close the fiber gap across the state. As part of the project, our team at EducationSuperHighway worked with the Public Schools Facilities Authority to identify school districts that lacked fiber and to understand each individual school district’s needs. Our network consultants first met David in September 2015. After diving deeper into the district’s unique situation, we immediately sought a solution that would get Jal’s schools connected to high-speed fiber. We engaged with 30 service providers to find out who would be willing to provide upgraded infrastructure and service. After working with the district to put together a comprehensive request for proposal (RFP), three service providers submitted bids for Jal’s project. Coincidentally, Windstream, the most cost-effective bidder, was already in the process of building fiber to serve the area. The district learned that the process of upgrading would be relatively easy and inexpensive – with a special construction cost of only $300 to install the fiber and build out to Jal’s schools.

As a result of the fiber upgrade, teachers in Jal are now able to offer their students full access to digital learning. Despite the lack of competition in their remote location, bandwidth has increased from 15 Mbps to 500 Mbps at only $5 per Mbps, paying less per month than their previous service. Says Verschueren, “recently, we hit the highest bandwidth usage that we’ve ever seen at the district – about 380 Mbps were being used by teachers and students daily. Now, the district has started purchasing more devices including carts of Chromebooks and iPads. [The administration] didn’t want to do this before because bandwidth was causing the bottleneck, but now that it’s no longer an issue, they can concern themselves with getting the funds for additional devices.” With their infrastructure needs taken care of, Jal’s future looks bright.

Click here to learn more about EducationSuperHighway’s free broadband upgrade consulting program.