Several buildings in the Fremont Public Schools district will receive cabling and wireless upgrades this year with help from the Federal eRate program.
These upgrades are expected to last for years.
The infrastructure being updated provides the foundation on which computers and other technological devices communicate with each other and access the internet.
FPS uses technology to teach students in all their subjects, said Cliff Huss, director of information services.
“Technology has been integrated into almost every aspect of our daily lives,” Huss said. “These upgrades are fundamental to providing the infrastructure needed to teach our students and for our students to be competitive in a technology-driven world.”
The work will be completed by the end of June 2020 and the total project cost is $259,710.65.
Of that, eRate funds will pay for $184,451.45 of the project. The district will pay $75,259.20.
This project is divided into two parts.
One will replace structured cabling systems — installed in the late 1990s — at Clarmar, Grant, Howard, Milliken Park, and Washington elementary schools, Fremont High School and the Lenihan building.
The total cabling project cost is $189,093.95.
Of that figure, $128,021.59 will be paid for with eRate program funding. FPS will contribute $61,072.36.
Buildings not involved in this project already have received cabling updates or were constructed recently or will receive cabling upgrades in future eRate funding years.
Another project will involve replacing access points and controllers that manage and monitor the wireless (Wi-Fi) network.
Access points are proposed to be replaced at Bell Field, Clarmar, Grant, Howard, Linden, Milliken Park, and Washington elementary schools and Fremont Middle School.
The controllers will replace existing controller appliances in the FPStech Network Operations Center.
The total access points and wireless controllers project cost is $70,616.70.
Of that sum, $56,429.86 will come from eRate program funds and $14,186.84 will come from the school district.
Access points in other buildings were replaced in recent years using eRate funding.
Initially, FPS anticipated receiving $23,317.07 more in eRate funds for the Funding Year 2019-2020.
But updated eRate funding budgets — posted after the district submitted applications for funds — were lower for some buildings than originally estimated.
Huss added that eRate budgets are building-specific and can’t be transferred between buildings.
The Federal eRate program was created as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.
It was meant to help schools and libraries obtain access to state-of-the-art services and technologies (phone, long-distance, and internet) at discounted rates.
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Huss said eRate discount rates are calculated by student count, the level of poverty at each school and the urban/rural status of the population served.
Discounts range from 20% to 90%.
“Fremont Public Schools as a district qualifies for an 80% discount on services and has taken advantage of eRate in all the years of the program,” Huss said.
The eRate program is funded by additional charges on consumer and commercial phone services (landline and cellular) and internet services.
Huss said the eRate program has two categories of funding.
Category 1 funding involves internet access.
“FPS takes advantage of eRate funds to reduce our internet service cost by 80 percent,” Huss said.
The eRate program also provides funding for Category 2 services.
These services include internal connections such as:
- Data cabling.
- Firewall hardware.
- Switch hardware.
- Access points.
- Wireless controllers.
- Fiber infrastructure.
And basic maintenance.
“All of those items are part of the foundation that allows computers, Chromebooks, iPads and other technology devices to communicate with each other, connect to the network and access the internet,” Huss said.
In 2015, eRate funding was changed to eliminate discounts for phone services — and to allow all applicants access to the Category 2 services.
Before 2015, FPS didn’t qualify for Category 2 funds.
“Since the changes in 2015, Fremont Public Schools has taken advantage of Category 2 funding in multiple years to replace wireless access points, replace switches and to install new fiber between cabling closets in all school buildings,” Huss said.
Entities, such as FPS, can request funding for each building over a five-year cycle.
This funding year 2019-2020 is the last year in a five-year cycle.
The budgets will reset next year.
Although the district didn’t get as much in eRate funding as anticipated for this year, Huss sees a positive aspect — FPS has used the full 80 percent discount budget available for these buildings during the past five years.
During a recent FPS Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Mark Shepard expressed similar thoughts.
“It’s been a great program for our district and allowed us to wire the entire district, initially. It’s allowed us to maintain a number of our components,” Shepard said.
The cable upgrade should last 20 years and the wireless upgrade for the next five to seven years.