Wednesday, April 20, 2011
A group of five school districts in the state of Illinois will soon enjoy the benefits of a high-speed fiber optic wide area network.
The announcement comes at a time when high-speed connections to the internet are increasingly being recognized as an essential tool for educational institutions, just as they are for businesses.
WIth fiber optic networks, students and teachers are able to access a wealth of data and information, use cloud-based applications and infrastructure and expand the walls of their classrooms to include people and places from across the globe.
The new fiber optic data services are set to be provided by Unite Private Networks, a U.S.-based network provider. The school districts that will benefit from the initiative include Darien, Antioch and River Forest, all of which are located in the Chicago area. In addition, Canton Union and Galesburg, both of which are near Peoria, Illinois, will also be connected to the WAN.
According to Unite Private Networks, all of the school districts signed long-term agreements with the company to upgrade the existing network infrastructure significantly.
Guy Cahill, assistant superintendent for finance and operations at the Galesburg School District, said the schools are "very excited" about the new WAN initiative. "The UPN WAN is a key and first component in the district’s larger 20-Year Master Facility Plan," he said.
Judy Gallagher-Cosgrove, vice president of business development for Unite Private Networks, said the fiber optic networks enable school districts to "do more with less." New forms of networking technology, according to Gallagher-Cosgrove, are helping to provide "cost savings and operational efficiencies and, of course, that means more data across networks."
The new fiber optic network has been designed with the intention of making it usable for a wide variety of educational purposes.
Dave Downing, technology director for Antioch District, said the project will enable schools to "fully utilize instructional technology throughout our district."
According to Don Howell, technology director for Canton Union District, many new IT tools, such as VoIP, cloud computing and security systems, are bandwidth-heavy, straining existing networks. "The proposed fiber network will give Canton Union District No. 55 enough bandwidth for years to come," he said.
While fiber optic networks were once seen as a luxury, a growing number of businesses, government agencies and other organizations now view them as essential for productivity and access to information. Global technology and communications company Fujitsu recently announced plans to construct a fiber optic network that will deliver high-speed internet services to millions of homes in under-served areas of the rural UK.