2017 Legislative Update – School Connectivity Initiative
The School Connectivity Initiative (SCI) continues to deliver high quality Internet access, client network engineering, Identity services, E-rate support and funding that benefit all NC public schools. Pursuant to the Appropriations Act of 2015 (S.L. 2015-241), the 2016-17 SCI budget is $31.9M. Major calendar year 2016 SCI accomplishments include:
- Upgraded Internet access to 46 LEAs and 100 charter schools – adding over 40Gbps of aggregate Internet capacity;
- Connected 16 new charter schools to the NC Research and Education Network (NCREN);
- Provided firewall services to 75 LEAs and 95 Charter Schools;
- Provided web security (Internet filtering) services to 79 LEAs and 92 Charter Schools
- Supported 51 LEAs and 40 charter schools with client network engineering (CNE) support services, through 148 total CNE engagements (91 LEA and 57 charter school);
- Continued to focus on high-quality, cost-effective training for public K-12 network administrators in North Carolina. Part of the professional development model is to contract with professional trainers and industry experts for three to five-day intensive training institutes. In 2016 this included a wireless certification course, and as a result, twenty LEA and charter school technology personnel received a highly regarded Certified Wireless Network Administrator
- Managed a wireless infrastructure and services procurement supporting over $55M in purchases for 72 LEAs and 25 charter schools.
- Issuing (in December 2016) a request for proposals soliciting new pricing for Internet access services.
Supporting North Carolina’s Digital Learning Plan
Reliable and consistent network access at the classroom and individual device level is imperative to supporting digital-age learning environments in our public schools. In the initial eight years of the SCI, the focus was on high performance and highly available Internet access delivered to the district and to school buildings. The resulting operating and support models for connectivity to the school serve students and educators well. The focus in the most recent two years has shifted to providing similar reliability and performance inside of the school. The SCI team has worked with LEAs and charter schools to upgrade classroom connectivity, targeting summer of 2018 to have all schools and classrooms served with sustainable digital-ready school networks. In 2015 and 2016, NC LEAs and charter schools have invested nearly $98M in internal school infrastructure and services, supported by the SCI program and requiring only $14M in appropriated State funds – with the remaining $84M covered by E-rate ($75M) and USED RttT funds ($9M). The 2016-17 legislative expansion of SCI funding by $12M recurring is imperative to sustaining reliable NC school networks.
Optimizing School Connectivity Efficiency and Return On Investment
While the SCI planning, design, and deployment has focused on upgrading classroom connectivity, we continue to emphasize efficiency and return on investment. Efficiency of operation will always be important for the SCI program as usage continues to grow at a phenomenal pace – and though connectivity service costs continue to drop, the increase in usage and the addition of at least a dozen charter schools per year can easily make for a steeper rise than can be accounted for with cost decreases. Further, through modeling and forecasting we are developing approaches to optimizing E-rate returns and to inform district fiber connectivity build-versus-buy decisions.
The School Connectivity Initiative delivers services to LEAs and charter schools alike that address pressing needs in an ever-changing environment that moves at Internet speed.