Leslie Collins Reporter Kansas City Business Journal

WANRack LLC has secured a stronger foothold in Arizona, signing on five school districts for its high-bandwidth, fiber-based communications network.

The project includes constructing 1,300 fiber miles. Combined, the districts serve more than 18,000 students, and three of the districts are in Phoenix suburbs.

“What it really means for us is the snowball is really getting larger now for Arizona,” WANRack President Rob Oyler told the Kansas City Business Journal.

Arizona was one of Lenexa-based WANRack’s early adopters, and Oyler sees growth opportunities, including potential to build a statewide network for the school districts, which would enable initiatives such as distance learning. In Kansas City, residents are spoiled with ultra-fast fiber internet options, but a number of schools districts in Arizona don’t have any fiber options, he said.

The schools lack adequate bandwidth, which is one reason the state created the Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative, a partnership between several state agencies and nonprofit EducationSuperHighway that aims to connect every K-12 school to high-speed and reliable broadband connections. The initiative also adds a state match via the federal E-Rate program, which reduces or eliminates the cost for schools to upgrade their internet. The initiative bodes well for WANRack, which designs and builds fiber-based communications networks for K-12 schools. With the state match, fiber is now an option for schools that otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford it, he said.

RELATED: K-12 schools drive Lenexa fiber company’s 312% jump in revenue

For Arizona’s J.O. Combs Unified School District, WANRack’s network provides a much-needed update.

“This WANRack network will provide the long-term performance, security and stability that our district requires to provide students a 21st century education,” J.O. Combs’ Director of Technology Jack Wallbrecht said in a release. “WANRack offered an exceptionally fast and affordable option for replacing a slow and unreliable microwave network that could not meet our needs.”

With the addition of the five school districts, WANRack now serves nearly 40,000 students in the state. The company has built name recognition in Arizona, including with the governor’s office, Oyler said. The scope of the new contracts also adds credibility to the company and could help it win other districts, he said.

“Our hope is we have the same success in the other 13 states (we serve) and possibly even add other states,” he said.

Leslie covers entrepreneurs and technology, retail, and marketing.