Staff and students in the Wenatchee School District (WSD) are experiencing a swifter and steadier connectivity when using their digital devices than ever before, thanks to the District’s implementation of what’s known as dark fiber this past July.
WSD’s Director of Operational Technology, Dave Yancey, explains.
“There’s two flavors of fiber that is provided to us,” said Yancey. “You have “lit” fiber, which is the provisioning by the entity who owns the fiber, and dark fiber which is basically (where) they provide you a fiber connection, the fiber line that goes from point to point, and it’s up to you on how you light it.”
“So, we run dark fiber, which means we have the switches on each end and we’re responsible for our own configuration, maintenance, reliability, and speeds. So, if we want it to be one gig(abit), we send one gig through it. If we want it to be ten, we do ten.”
Dark fiber networks are a popular technology infrastructure with many large businesses and government entities, since they are both very fast and highly secure, and operate with great efficiently in the transmission of large amounts of sensitive data.
Another dark-fiber plus is its ability to be serviced quickly in the event of any interruption of service.
“The benefit to the District is really real-time support,” detailed Yancey. “Because, by the time we get an outage and by the time we notice it and verify it and then call in anybody on a third-party side, it could be up to one to three hours before we find resolution. Being able to manage it internally means the second we are notified that the line drops, we can have technicians on site, and we can resolve that really pretty quickly.”
WSD’s switch to dark fiber was largely premised on its users hunger for bandwidth, which Yancey says is growing all the time. And with as many as 10,000 individual pieces of tech in the district, from student laptops to security cameras, relying upon a rapid and rock-solid point-to-point connection, it’s no surprise why the District decided to join the dark side of the fiber force.
“Basically every device that a student uses, whether it’s a tablet or a Chromebook or a laptop, anything the students use right now is going through some kind of internet connection,” explained Yancey. “Most of the stuff in the Cloud is Cloud-based, which means every time an assessment or instruction relies on any kind of online training, it has to get past our interface here and we have to guarantee that reliability. It’s just a must when they click or tap on any device, they get what they expect. They look to it like turning on a water faucet. They want water coming out of it (and) the internet is no different.”
As far as any future plans for building out the District’s internet capabilities, Yancey says things are in a good place for now, but there are specific institutions with the WSD that are expecting an individual upgrade soon.
“On the District core, we’re pretty well in place with what we’re doing. We are working on Wenatchee High School right now. In fact, we have a proposal out there, a request to put in a 24-strand fiber network through the high school. What that will do is allow us to build out the infrastructure to offer more wireless, it’ll allow to put voice-over-IP telephones into place, it’ll enhance the camera and security systems. Especially with security, as they continue to build out, we’re just running out of space for what we can fit into the current “pipe” – the bandwidth of what’s in there now. This will allow us unlimited space for the next ten to twenty years.”