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December 11, 2013

A School District Pays Big For Fiber Connectivity

By Nicole Spector, Contributing Writer

The values of fiber connectivity has been an escalating conversation in the tech world, with particular emphasis on how it could greatly benefit Internet usage in schools. It has proven to be quicker, more reliable, and all around mightier than DSL. Policymakers have been championing fiber connectivity as a classroom must have, and some school districts, like the St. Joseph School District have been paying heed.

St. Joseph has two brand new public elementary schools that are soon to open, one at Carden Park at 16th and Duncan streets and the other at Bishop and Cook roads. Both are being built to connect to the Internet via fiber. The installation price may be seen as a longterm, upfront investment, but it sure is note coming cheap, and some outside parties are speculating whether fiber connectivity was the right thing for a public school district to put such big bucks toward. Turns out this district does not have much of a choice if it wants to continue on the path its long been headed on — one leading to total fiber connectivity. 

The company servicing the district is Suddenlink Communications, a cable broadband services provider in the United States with approximately 1.4 million subscribers that bought out St. Joseph Cablevision, which previously serviced the district. When Suddenlink acquired that firm, it promised to provide fiber optic and broadband services to the local schools for free. Though there is some hefty bucks to be handed over.  Rick Hartigan, chief operating officer for the district, told that payments to Suddenlink are "non-negotiable." But they are one-time fees.

The district must pay respective fees of $41,985 and $50,640 to bring each of the two new schools into the existing fiber network, a connection process that will is slated to start in January.  The district of St. Joseph has been keen on fiber optic connectivity since at least 1995, when it applied for a U.S. Department of Commerce grant to provide the technology in schools. The district spent $486,000, and the federal grant matched that amount. Then St. Joseph Cablevision got involved and the current fiber optic system was engineered. It was a landmark occasion, as at the time, "there weren’t any urban or citywide fiber networks in the country to model after,” Hartigan says.

Despite the nearly one-hundred thousand dollars that need to be handed over to Suddenlink by St. Joseph, the district isn't doing too badly. Most of the connectivity was already paid for by Cablevision, which dropped $4 million back in the day. 

Edited by Ryan Sartor
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