News

ONE way districts are negotiating cheap, reliable internet for themselves

By Bridget McCrea
February 18th, 2015

28 school districts in Michigan leverage their cumulative power to provide bargain-priced internet access to Oakland County.

internet-consortiumAs an early adopter of the “county-wide internet” concept, the School District of the City of Pontiac in Michigan pays less than a third of the statewide average for its high-speed, highly reliable internet.

Pontiac is just one of the 28 Oakland County schools districts that have hooked into the ONE consortium, which pools its collective resources to bargain big with telecom providers and tap into other funding sources. The consortium is part of a statewide Technology Readiness Infrastructure Grant (TRIG) effort that’s partially funded through the federal E-rate program.

“The state used an E-rate bid for internet… and wound up saving money across the state,” says Jeff Mozdzierz, Pontiac’s director of field services for Oakland Schools (of which Pontiac is one of 28 districts that together serve 200,000 students in 425 connected buildings).

Through ONE, the internet is provided over consortium-owned private fiber into a connection with telecom providers, with all consortium members sharing two 10 Gigabit connections. According to Tammy Evans, chief technology officer for Oakland Schools, the county was an early adopter of the concept of “shared internet” across multiple, geographically-dispersed schools. In 2000, the county rolled out a 36-connection network that links all local public school districts and its technical campus sites.

Prior to that rollout, the districts were using dialup phone modems. “When we went to a fiber network we experienced tremendous increases in capacity, speed, reliability, and the ability to share our applications and content,” recalls Evans. In 2000, the county kicked off its fiber initiative with a 250MB connection. Fast-forward to 2015 and Oakland Schools currently acts as a provider to 28 local districts via the ONE consortium and it relies on two different private vendors to supply access from two different locations. “That give us the ability to do load-balancing and have redundancy on those connections,” says Evans, “which have a total of 20 gigabits of service.”

Next page: Leveraging economies of scale