Garfield students will have better internet service
GARFIELD — Students at Garfield Elementary School will soon have the same internet service as their peers in the rest of the Rogers School District.
Garnering information on new utility poles installed by Cox Communications along U.S. Highway 62 was the purpose of a special City Council meeting called by Mayor Gary Blackburn, he said. The meeting, held Thursday, Nov. 1, was attended by all four City Council members, school officials, officials from Cox Cable and Vision Cabling Service, a couple of Planning Commission members and area residents.
Blackburn said that in the absence of the recorder/treasurer, he would keep the minutes and alderman Barry Kitterman would record the meeting.
Blackburn said he was most specifically interested in the poles that “start at the feed store and come into town.”
“I was visiting with one of the crew members on the cabling outfit and talking about how this was going to go. The gentleman was coming into to get the schematics for the water line, didn’t want to hit water line, and he told me Cox Communications was going to come to town and going to school and they wanted to provide the same service that kids in town have.
“I’m pretty excited about that. That led me to believe there was a combination of transmission efforts — part underground and the rest on existing poles, so when I saw the poles on (U.S. Hwy.) 62, I was interested. That’s what got us here tonight,” Blackburn explained.
Saying he was also going to “speak for Carroll Electric,” Blackburn said he talked to Derek Thurman from Carroll Electric and that the person who needed to be at the meeting was in Harrison and couldn’t attend. He said the decision for Cox not to use the existing poles owned by Carroll Electric was a “business decision made by Cox.”
Andy Mayes, chief information officer for Rogers Public Schools, said the internet needs of the students at Garfield Elementary School had been taken care of through other companies but that as the instructional needs of the school had grown, additional bandwidth was needed. He said there is a recommended bandwidth per student recommended by the state, also, and that required the school officials to reexamine providers.
“We rolled out new instructional software — one-to-one — every student has a device and they could potentially be using those all at one time (and we encourage them to),” Mayes said, adding that Cox provides service to the other schools within the district and offered to provide service to Garfield school.
“We have that need to get to that bandwidth level for students.
We’re moving forward in the world,” Mayes said.
Stephen Bowman, principal at Garfield Elementary for the past eight years, said: “Technology is one of those things that has been a thorn in our side.”
Because of the narrow bandwidth, he said in the past, when a classroom was testing online, everyone else in the school, including staff, had to get off the wireless internet.
“We just didn’t have enough for everybody to be running,” he said. “I’m always an advocate for our school, our kids, our community. I want what everybody else has if not more.”
“I want to brag on our kids, Garfield Elementary School was just awarded money from the state because of being in the top 5 percent of performance in the state,” Bowman said, adding that the school falls towards the bottom in the socio-economic strata with about 80 percent of the students on free and reduced lunch.
“We’ve become a school that is very well respected. We depend on technology and internet. We’re excited about the opportunity to turn those computers on every day and know we’re going to have service,” Bowman continued.
Mayes explained that the new lines will provide a point to point connection from the school to the school district data center.
Angela DeLille, manager for government affairs for Cox, said not using the existing Carroll Electric poles was “a business decision. It was a cost prohibitive.”
She said by using a combination of their own poles, using some Carroll poles and going underground in some places, the company was able to bring down the cost dramatically from some of the other estimates.”
Alderman Terry Warren asked if any one else, residents or business owners, would be able to connect to the lines.
“What we are doing is designed specifically for the schools … it’s a network connection that is going back to the Rogers School system,” DeLille said. “It’s not providing the co-axle that will provide video. It’s not the same level we would provide to residential. It’s not in our plans to build out to the community at this time.”
Matthew Mozzoni, director of sales for Cox, said the company could potentially look at splitting off fiber for business owners for internet.
City Council member Kitterman asked how many more poles would be installed.
Ed Fairchild, construction manager for Cox, said there are about 12 poles in town and about 14 more “from where they’re set” with a combination of underground and the poles. He said all permits were obtained and the poles are on state highway right of way. He said there was one place near the Pea Ridge National Military Park battlefield that a private easement had to be purchased.
Tricia Lee, a member of the Garfield Planning Commission, said: “I think people would like you more if you’d provide service.”
Blackburn said, “I’d heard that and that’s why we’re here tonight.”
Ellen King, another member of the Planning Commission, said: “A lot of people are discouraged. This looks disgusting. It does not make our city more beautiful.”
Mayes said the project was bid last year and quotes were received that were much higher than Cox prices based on a third-party vendor. “Cox is our only real opportunity. I think that’s something to be considered. Cox has absorbed the entire cost of this build out. They’re honoring our originally quotes rates. I think that’s an honorable thing to do.”
Blackburn said Planning Commission members should explain this to the public. DeLille said she would be happy to attend a meeting to explain.
Jeremy Decker, president of Vision Cabling Service, said there have been delays, especially crossing the creek coming out of Avoca, but he hopes to be finished by the end of November or mid-December.