PSD is one of several potential partners with the county to install fiber optic cable througout the district.

Peninsula School District recently signed a new contract with a new service to provide fiber optic internet service to all its buildings.

Kris Hagel, executive director of digital learning for the district, said the state has its K-20 Educational Network connected to the main district office. K-20 is a high-speed, high-capacity network that connects colleges, universities, K-12 school districts and libraries across Washington. From there, the district leases fiber optic service to its campuses. Half of the funding for that service comes from the federal government and periodically the district is required to review the lease agreement.

The current lease, with CenturyLink, expires in June. When the district sought bids as a part of the review process, the bid included options to expand future connectivity from the current 1Gbps to 10, 40 and 100 Gbps. The district reviewed four bids. CenturyLink did not submit one.

The 10-year contract went to WANRack, a Kansas-based firm that specializes in custom-built private fiber wide area networks (WANs) for K-12 schools across the nation. “It was the most effective of the bids, calculated over a 20-year time frame,” Hagel said. “We will start at our current speed of 1Gbps but there is no additional cost to increase to 10, 40 or 100Gbps if we need to do that.”

The work cannot begin immediately since the federal government must approve the contract. Hagel said that can take between three and 18 months. The installation should take about six months to complete.

The district hopes to contract month-by-month with CenturyLink until the new cable is installed.

Hagel reached out to Pierce County Councilman Derek Young to ask if the cable might be a part of the county’s broadband infrastructure plan.

Young said that the COVID-19 crisis has made it clear that adequate internet access is not just about economic equity or convenience. “It is about life and death. Broadband is an essential utility. The county will look at partnering with any entity that makes sense — the school district, local utilities such as Peninsula Light and even a PUD from another county such as Kitsap.”

Young said that CBG Communication is currently reviewing policies and codes to assure that they are not barriers to providing broadband services. A contract has just been signed with CTC Technology and Energy and they will be tasked with planning, identifying funding and then implementing installation of the broadband infrastructure backbone in the county.

 “I hope to see fiber laid by early next year,” Young said.

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