Thursday, Jul 20, 2017
LITTLE ROCK-Internet connectivity in the state’s K-12 school system has been catapulted to the top of the nation upon completion of a two-year project to upgrade the Arkansas Public School Computer Network (APSCN) to a highly secure, all fiber, high speed broadband network delivering internet speeds 40 times faster than the previous network.
Governor Asa Hutchinson joined Yessica Jones, director of the Arkansas Department of Information Systems (DIS), and Johnny Key, commissioner of the Arkansas Department of Education (ADE), for a Flip the Switch ceremony Thursday, July 20, at the Glen Rose School District in Malvern to announce the historic achievement for the state’s K-12 school system.
“In 2015, when I issued the directive to connect all our schools, I didn’t know exactly how it would look,” Governor Hutchinson said. “But I knew for sure that information systems and the education department would get the job done. They did, and the final product looks grand. Not only are we leading the way, we surpassed the federal goals and set a standard for the rest of the nation.”
Arkansas is now one of only six states in the nation to achieve at least 100 kilobits per second (kbps) per student in 100 percent of its school districts. In fact, the state doubled that figure, meaning Arkansas students will now have access to a minimum of 200 kbps per student.
“In order to accomplish our vision of transforming Arkansas to lead the nation in student-focused education, our students must have access to high-speed Internet. The partnership between ADE and DIS has helped make this bandwidth goal a reality for every student in the state. Because of this accomplishment, the learning opportunities for all students are endless.”
The new APSCN provides students, teachers, faculty and other education professionals in 293 public schools, charter schools and education-service cooperatives of all sizes and geographic locations with high-speed broadband connectivity.
“Because Arkansas is a rural state, many of our school districts were falling into that digital divide cited in study after study of the national broadband environment,” Jones said. “A national organization said Arkansas had an unprecedented opportunity to lead the nation in upgrading the internet access to its K-12 schools in a comprehensive and cost-effective way. Today, I am proud to say we did it.”
When the governor directed the build out of the network, only 58 percent of Arkansas districts were meeting the federal target. Originally, the project included 276 public and charter schools and education service cooperatives. In addition, 22 telecommunications providers, ranging from small locally owned companies to companies with a global reach, successfully bid for a portion of the project.
The state’s buying power drastically reduced the vendor cost for internet data from $76.70 per megabit to $3.70, enabling ADE to maximize its existing budget to provide 200 kbps per second per user of state-funded bandwidth at no cost to school districts.
The new network provides bandwidth speeds to access online courses and conduct online research and internet-based class projects, such as coding and virtual field trips. Additionally, it will be instrumental in facilitating students’ completion of online courses the state requires for graduation.
DIS is a cabinet level agency of Arkansas state government that provides information technology (IT) solutions to the public sector. DIS customers include state agencies, boards, commissions, city and county governmental entities, k-12 public schools, institutions of higher education, and the public safety community.
DIS is responsible for the security, disaster recovery and Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) functions for the state. Primary products and services provided by DIS include data center and hosting, voice (telephony), networking, professional services, storage and backup and operational services.