APACHE COUNTY — Five school districts across Apache County are now connected to high-speed broadband as a result of recently completed E-Rate project(s) that funded the installation of hundreds of miles of fiber optic cable.
“We transitioned to the newly installed fiber the last week of June. It took several days to complete the switch over [to broadband],” says Apache County Schools Superintendent R. Barry Williams of the Apache County Schools Business Consortium.
The $7.75 million Apache County project that began in March 2018 required the underground and overhead installation of 174 miles of fiber optic cable, 94 miles of which cross the Navajo Nation. Special permitting was required before construction could begin on the reservation, across National Forest lands and many other right-of-way areas.
This project is one of several rural school districts in Arizona that applied for and received federal funding through the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC), which is designated by the Federal Communications Commission to award funding as part of a national broadband initiative.
The Apache County Schools Business Consortium (ACSBS) has connected St. Johns, Vernon Elementary, McNary Elementary, Round Valley and Red Mesa Unified School Districts as phase one in their broadband project. This means that schools within these districts should see a significant difference in connectivity and internet speed when they resume school this August.
“Sanders Unified School District construction has been extended into this fiscal year,” explains Williams. “Our second phase project, that is currently in engineering and permitting stage, includes the Apache County Library and the satellite library facilities located in Vernon, Greer, Round Valley, Concho and Sanders as well as the Concho ESD facility.”
“We look forward to seeing the benefit to our local businesses, citizens and families. The completion of this infrastructure build-out should, in the not too distant future, begin to provide additional choices for broadband access and improved quality of service,” assures Williams.
Schools and libraries receiving federal funding are generally eligible for a state match of funding through the E-Rate program. Over $11 million has been secured and allocated to pay for the construction costs of bringing faster, more reliable internet to rural areas. For more information, visit http://www.azed.gov/erate/arizona-e-rate-program/.