WANRack, districts to improve students’ web access

Yuma-area school districts have signed an agreement with telecommunications company WANRack to provide fast, constant and reliable Internet access to area students and teachers.

“WANRack is the company that will be building this network,” said Dean Farar, director of the Yuma Educational Technology Consortium that oversees technology within Yuma Elementary School District One and Yuma Union High School District. “The way it works right now is that our data will go from a Time Warner point to another TW point to another until it hits another one of our schools, dumping our data on the general network.

“What this will do is eliminate all those additional pieces of network,” he continued. “It will be going from one of our facilities from another one of our facilities, point to point with nothing in between.”

The fiber optic network will increase bandwidth within the system from 1 gigabit to 10 gigabits after the installation of 22 miles of fiber optic cables connecting the 27 schools to YETC.

“Nearly 20,000 students and staff in Yuma Union High School District and Yuma Elementary School District One and will benefit from the high speed infrastructure,” said WANRack in a press release.

The point of the improvements is simple, according to Farar: To maintain an electronic infrastructure that is capable of forwarding the missions set forward by both school districts recently.

“The goal is that with our initiatives for personalized learning in District One and Ready Now Yuma with YUHSD, we have the capacity to maintain those programs,” said Farar. “The goal is to make it like plumbing or electricity, you show up and it just works, no limitations.”

That is a goal that WANRack is on board with.

“Private WANs provide superior, virtually unlimited bandwidth without the bottlenecks or the security and reliability concerns that plague users of shared public networks,” said Rob Oyler, president of WANRack. “Many districts don’t realize that this approach is an extremely affordable alternative to telephone and cable company service. We are thrilled to be building a network infrastructure in Yuma that will meet the current and future needs for these forward-thinking districts.”

“The goal is to eliminate as many bottlenecks in the network as possible,” said Farar. “It is a grand strategy at this point, and it will be interesting.”

The network’s completion is set for this coming January and YETC is set for a $2,000 monthly fee per connection for the service, 80 to 85 percent of which will be paid for by E-Rate funds.

E-Rate is a federal fund that is taken from phone and digital service taxes and used to be pay for technology services in institutions such as schools and libraries.

This is absolutely necessary, especially with the unrolling of personal learning devices for students.

“Each one of the students will have a personal learning device, and that’s over 20,000 of those,” said Farar. “That’s one of the big catalysts for the push, and if you don’t make these types of adjustments for the infrastructure, the investment in those types of devices just isn’t worth it.

“It would be very frustrating for students, staff and the community at large,” he continued. “When it’s fully complete, it’ll probably be one of the more robust education networks from K-12.”

Yuma Sun Staff Writer Kevin G. Andrade can be contacted at 928-539-6853 or kandrade@yumasun.com.