County Schools Going High Speed

SNOW HILL — Learning is about to get a little faster with broadband slated to connect Worcester County schools by September 2013.

According to the Board of Education, that’s great news considering the underwhelming performance of the current Internet service at some schools.

“We’re really been struggling to provide reliable service,” said Assistant Superintendent for Administration Ed Barber.

One Maryland Broadband Network (OMBN) recently received a $115 million federal grant to run 1,300 miles of fiber-optic cabling throughout the state. The new network is expected to reach over 1,000 community institutions in Maryland, including all of Worcester’s 14 public schools.

The effort will take part in two distinct phases. Phase 1 will entail the “installation of conduit from the fiber optic main line to the mechanical room of each school,” according to a memo from Technology Coordinator Thomas Mascara and Facilities Planner Joe Price.

Phase 2 will then be the installation of fiber-optic line from each school’s mechanical room to the central computer closet.

“We’ve laid the backbone infrastructure,” said OMBN Eastern Shore Project Manager Steven Crawford.

According to Crawford, 155 miles of fiber-optics have already been laid across the state and 10 out of 1,006 cites connected. On the Eastern Shore, 85-90 percent of the cable will be housed underground, he added.

“For the most part, we’re pretty much right on the way,” Crawford promised the board on Tuesday.

At the current rate, fiber installation at every county school should be finished by September 2013. However, once everything is installed, it will still be up to the school board to pay for any additional expenses including new routers or connections to the network. Initial equipment cost estimates are in the neighborhood of $120k.

Crawford described it as his company laying a “highway” while the BoE is responsible for providing the “cars.”

The board felt that it was a great deal, all things considered, and authorized OMBN to move ahead with connecting schools. Crawford promised that the disruption generated by the process would be minimal.

“Our goal is to get as much done while students are out of school as possible,” he said.

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