Students and teachers in the Frisco school district probably won't sense any difference in the Internet speed of their laptops or tablets, but district officials are taking a major step toward advancing the technology that helps them run.
The district is planning to complete a project to finish building its own fiber optic network. The cost-savings move is expected to save the district hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially as new schools are built and added to the network.
Technology infrastructure is important to Frisco ISD, which encourages use of computers, tablets and other devices for learning.
The district currently spends about $320,000 per year to lease fiber optic services from outside providers. Officials said nearly half —24 of 56 campuses—are connected to the district's network operation through outside providers.
Completing the district network is expected to cost between $1.5 million and $1.8 million, officials said, but it will eliminate the year after year cost of leasing fiber service.
"There is great economy and increased efficiency in expanding our own fiber network as opposed to using services through outside providers," said Mike Waldrip, deputy superintendent of program evaluation and information services.
"We will begin to see a return on our investment after approximately five to eight years and will save significant funds over the long term," he added.
The district began building its network in 2000 and had 27 miles of cable in place by the 2005-06 school year, said John Curran, Frisco ISD director of technology operations. But the project stopped because growth hadn't caught up in some areas, and there were no roads to lay cable, he said.
In fast-growing parts of the district, new construction proved problematic for buried cable, he said.
"We know now that our lines won't be hit by construction," Curran said. "It's now time to move forward with this project we started in 2000."
The project will take about 18 months to complete.
Once complete, the district's fiber optic highway will provide connection to all 56 campuses and future schools.
"This will be critically important as Frisco ISD opens new schools to accommodate student growth and expands our Bring-Your-Own-Device program, which allows middle and high school students to bring their own laptops, smart phones and other devices to use during the school day," Waldrip said. "It puts the infrastructure in place to allow us to better plan for the increasing demands of a 21st Century digital learning environment.
Waldrip said the district is committed to making smart decisions that benefit student learning and eliminate inefficient business practices.
"The fiber project is just another example of our ongoing efforts to analyze the way we work and to find ways to make those processes more efficient and cost effective," he said.
Speed of Internet service should not be affected by the changeover, he said.
The district will still contract outside for Internet bandwidth service.