Amarillo ISD studies options for upgrading internet service February 17, 2017
BY ROBERT STEIN
Amarillo Independent School District is considering switching up the way its schools are connected via the internet to increase capacity for digital learning.
Amarillo ISD’s school board heard from a consultant hired to help the district take advantage of changes to the federal government’s E-Rate program.
Run by the Federal Communications Commission, the program subsidizes internet access and computer equipment for schools.
For nearly two decades, the district has paid AT&T a monthly rate to connect its campuses.
Currently that rate is $15,000, but it could more than quadruple after the existing contract expires at the end of June, according to Jeff Roller, the district’s chief technology officer.
A recent addition of discounts under the E-Rate program potentially opens up two other options — the district could build and maintain its own network infrastructure or it could using a hybrid method by leasing existing fiber-optic cable and having responsibility only for transmission equipment.
The district plans to submit a request for proposals for the two new options and a continuation of the current type of service on Thursday.
The board must accept a bid that is the most cost-effective over the long term to get an E-Rate discount if it chooses to build its own infrastructure.
The consultant, True North Consulting Group, said a self-build would likely be prohibitively expensive, and the firm expected no bids from cable companies to continue the district’s current monthly fee setup.
It anticipated bids for leasing cable to come in at $5 million to $10 million annually, a cost that drops to $1 million to $2 million with the subsidy.
Though school board members were skeptical that significant savings would be found, the district hopes a re-evaluation will better position its network to stay current with changes in technology.
“We have a new opportunity where we can build our own network by fiber optics that can power our schools and give them the bandwidth needed for all our future digital learning needs,” Roller said.
SOURCE: Amarillo Globe News