Fiber Optics Promise Better Connection

May, 23 2013

Original article http://my.hsj.org

The annoyance of the wireless network crashing has plagued PL South for years. With the school bond that was passed last November, this frequent problem with the school server will be fixed with fiber optics.

Fiber optics are usually made of glass and/or plastic and transmit data using light. Annette Eyman, head of public relations for the school district, said that the main goal of the fiber optics was to “increase connectivity of computers.”  To supply a reliable connection to roughly 7,500 computers, Central Office partnered with Unite Private Networks.

Currently, Central Office runs on wireless connections built on water towers and school rooftops. The fault with the current system is the structure, which results in an unequal amount of data to each school. “For instance, Anderson Grove Elementary has a total of 9 megabits of access to the network,” Bill Pulte, director of information technology for the school district, said. “On the other hand, Walnut Creek has a 36-megabit connection, and South High has a 56-megabit connection.”

To correct this problem, the wired connection from the fiber optics will give all buildings a sustainable and equal connection. “Once the fiber is in place, every building in the district will have 1,000 megabits back to the District Technology Center, creating an equalized environment for everyone,” Pulte said.

Titan Tech Jack Lambie, a junior, said another problem with the current system was vulnerability to bad weather. “When we have a storm, it will go down,” he said.

Pulte agreed. “Speeds drop down in heavy rains and wind,” he said. “In my five years here, we have lost seven lightning suppressors during thunderstorms.”

The wireless connection, installed in 2005, is outdated. “When the wireless system was put in eight years ago, the district was using T1 lines, which run at 1.54 megabits,” Pulte said.

The dated wireless network has caused problems for students and their schoolwork.

Senior Shelby Cornett runs into problems daily, as she is co-editor in chief of the yearbook and relies on school technology to get all the necessary work done. “It doesn’t let us get to the pages and pictures we need,” Cornett said. “When it doesn’t work, it puts us behind.”

Technology teacher Lisa Alfrey explained that the wireless network caused many problems with the server. “Inconsistency with the wireless network is what we run into,” she said. “[It] is archaic.”

Alfrey emphasized that, after installation, the fiber optics would be effective immediately. “They will bring the wireless network up to date,” she said. “It will be great for the entire district.”

Because the school district lacks a service-level agreement with the current company, Central Office has had to fix problems on its own.

“My staff and I are able to correct about 50 percent of the problems that occur with the current system, but the other 50 percent, we have to call in the company that installed the equipment,” Pulte said. “Sometimes it can take a day or two before it is corrected.”

With the installation of the fiber optics, this issue will be avoided. In the fiber optic contract, the school district will have a service-level agreement, which will oblige the company to fix a network issue within a set timeframe.

To increase reliability and speed, the fiber optics will be placed in various locations. “In some places, it is being attached to OPPD poles, and in others it is being trenched underground,” Pulte said.

While the connection from Central Office to schools will be wired, the computers inside each school will remain wireless.

Lambie said he believed the fiber optics would “increase productivity and decrease downtime.”

Cornett said students would be grateful for the installation. “I’m sure they are going to like it,” she said.

Along with PL South’s expectations for the fiber optics, the district is looking forward to the transition.

“We want the network up as often as possible for all students and staff members in the district,” Pulte said. “We hope that these limitations can be relaxed next year, giving students more and better access with whatever device they choose to use.”

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