With both Common Core testing and a 2013-2014 districtwide BYOD initiative looming, Rockwood School District in St. Louis County, Mo., required a strong Ethernet connection between buildings. As the district spans 150 square miles, the large area needed high-level coverage. According to Will Blaylock, the district’s CIO, the provider the district had been using prior to July 2013 had been meeting the district’s needs, but they were looking for more. After sending out a bid for services, AT&T was chosen and officially began serving as Rockwood’s broadband Ethernet services provider on July 1, 2013.
“We selected AT&T because the company offered not only a much more competitive price than our previous provider, but the best value for the product,” says Blaylock. With a proven track record in providing reliable and secure networks, AT&T is highly experienced in routing data over a WAN, he says. “The professionals at AT&T are experts,” Blaylock says. “They gave us an Ethernet network that allows us to do what we need to do.” AT&T provided a project manager who coordinated the entire project from beginning to end, helping to make the switch as smooth as possible. “She oversaw the installation of fiber through the buildings and conducted weekly, then daily status calls as the project progressed,” Blaylock says. That level of service was exactly what Blaylock and his team required throughout the nerve-wracking process.
“All of our communications, from phone to email to internet, run on that WAN, so making a change to a new provider is stressful from a CIO perspective,” Blaylock says. “Our AT&T project manager really understood this. She did not contact us more than necessary, but always made the information we needed available.” Any large-scale broadband implementation project is not without problems. The AT&T difference, however, was that being from such a large company with so many years of experience, AT&T representatives were able to respond to issues quickly and still meet all project deadlines. “It can be easy to go with the lowest bidder for a project, but if they do not have the resources to solve problems quickly, any money saved will be lost in last-minute quick fixes,” Blaylock says. The switch to AT&T’s Switched Ethernet service went so smoothly, most end-users in the district did not know a big change had occurred, according to Blaylock. “It’s a sign of success when staff do not experience any issues in the transition to a new provider,” he says.
AT&T’s ability to meet Rockwood’s network latency requirements has allowed for a continued high-level user experience. “It was important for us to know that when a user loads a page on the internet, it will load at a speed we deem acceptable,” Blaylock says. For the technology team, the increased bandwidth has made it possible to back up data to the district disaster recovery site. Blaylock says critical district’s processes could continue as normal from the disaster recovery site, which allows for continuity of operation for the district in a disaster situation. One of the best aspects of AT&T’s services is the network fully delivers on bandwidth requirements, Blaylock says. We have 1 Gbps Ethernet connections between most of Rockwood’s buildings, while others operate at 4Gb or 10Gb. “A provider can say they deliver service up to 10Gb, but you may actually be operating at a much slower speed,” says Blaylock. “With AT&T, we are consistently receiving the capacity, which allows district processes to run optimally.”
For more information, visit www.att.com/k12bandwidth