PG Telco Ups Schools’ Internet Speed
PRAIRIE GROVE — Prairie Grove, Farmington and Lincoln school districts purchase their internet provider service from PG Telco and on Oct. 1, the company voluntarily increased the bandwidth for all three school districts at a lower cost than they had been paying previously.
Shawn Witt, technology and security director for Prairie Grove School District, said he wanted PG Telco to be recognized because of its partnership with the three area school districts.
“My first interaction with PG Telco was when someone hit our fiber optic cable,” Witt said. “PG Telco came out at cost and spliced the cable back together for us. Our entire network was down.”
He said the company’s action was swift and saved the school a lot of money.
When Witt attends technology conferences and meetings, he said other districts are impressed with the service provided by PG Telco to schools in western Washington County.
“We’re so fortunate to live in this region,” Witt said. “Even other schools within our Coop
(Northwest Arkansas Education Service Cooperative) are jealous of Farmington, Prairie Grove and Lincoln schools.”
Rick Reed, general manager of PG Telco, said the company has increased its capacity to handle additional home use, especially in the evenings when customers are streaming movies and shows from media providers such as Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.
This increased capacity is not needed during the day, and Reed said PG Telco decided to consider increasing the schools’ internet speed and capacity during school hours.
“We look at it as unused capacity laying there during the day,” Reed said. “We decided we had this, let’s provide this for our schools during the day.”
He approached the owners of PG Telco, the Parks family, with the idea and they were willing to move ahead with the plan.
As of Oct. 1, the three school districts now have 1 gigabit internet bandwidth, which is about five times the capacity they had before.
“We increased their bandwidth to make sure they have enough to do what they want to do,” Reed said.
Witt said internet bandwidth needs continue to increase as more and more services at the schools are running off the internet. In Prairie Grove, for example, all students in third through eighth grades have their own electronic devices to use everyday. In addition, teachers are using internet connections more than ever before.
More bandwidth allows the district to maintain a modernized curriculum and enables students to be connected to the internet, Witt said.
Increased bandwidth also is necessary for online testing, now mandated by the state.
Schools receive internet capacity through a state provider service but it is usually not enough, Witt said.
“It’s awesome with PG Telco because we don’t have to beg the state for more bandwidth,” he said, adding, “Now we don’t have any bandwidth concerns.”
Jarod Morrison, technology director for Farmington School District, said the school’s online speed is 5 times faster and its cost was reduced by 75 percent as a result of the company’s decision. Farmington went from 200 megabits to more than 1,000 megabits or 1 gigabit.
“This helps with how much download and upload bandwidth capacity we have,” Morrison said.
As an example, he said the high school was able to stream a Youtube video on drug awareness to all classes at the same time.
“We couldn’t do that before,” Morrison said. “Now we don’t have to worry about what we can handle.”
Reed said PG Telco sees itself as a partner with the schools in the area.
He pointed out that the three school districts represent the “heart” of each community.
“By doing what we can to improve their educational capabilities, that’s good for our business and it makes these communities a good place to live,” Reed said. “We believe our schools are one of the main attractions to living in Washington County. If we can be a part of that, we want to do that.”
This camera is set up in the classroom of Farmington High teacher Hailey Spears so that viewers can watch trout grow through a live videostream shown 24 hours. This live stream is possible because of more internet capacity.