Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN) is providing the Richmond, Va., school district a private, 87-mile 1G fiber-based Wide Area Network (WAN).
With this new network in place, the service provider is enabling it to provide district-wide access to online testing and other testing tools for its student body. In addition, the district will be able to take advantage of a number of other services, including enriched curriculum, new educational resources, professional development and administrative uses.
This new network was made possible through Windstream's acquisition of the former Kentucky Data Link (KDL), a regional fiber provider it purchased in 2010.
Prior to being acquired by Windstream, KDL approached the school district about building a new network.
At that time, the district was using a mix of dial up, DSL and copper-based T1 access circuits, meaning they had to schedule time with the IT director to conduct software upgrades and access the Internet.
"They used to have to cluster software deployments into certain regions at a time because they could not get on all at the same time," Jeff King, director of fiber sales for Windstream, said in an interview with FierceTelecom. "Not everybody could be taking tests and access the Internet at the same time because it had to be coordinated with the IT director, which was problem."
In considering a new network platform, the school district had three main requirements: mesh all of its needs together with a future proofed network; deploy one software license at a hub point and distribute to all of the schools; and create a larger pipe of Internet access for teachers, administrators, and students.
Not surprisingly, when the district began evaluating solutions, a key consideration was the cost. At a time when school budgets are tight, Richmond's fiber project was funded through the E-Rate program, which provides financial assistance for eligible K-12 schools and libraries in the United States to get telecom services at competitive rates.
"When KDL approached them about a fiber network they were not on board because of the cost," King said. "It's a large cost to install a fiber network just for the school district so we suggested they use the E-Rate program."
By upgrading their network with Windstream's fiber, the district estimated it could save them about $120,000 a year and over a five year period $700,000.
The Richmond district's new fiber build points to a need that all U.S.-based schools have to support their learning and administrative functions. A recent report by the State Educational Technology Directors Associate (SETDA) says that schools will need external Internet connections to their ISP of 100 Mbps per 1,000 students and staff by 2014-15 and 1 Gbps per 1,000 students and staff by 2017-18.
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