Garfield stu­dents will have bet­ter in­ter­net ser­vice

The Times (Northeast Benton County) - - FRONT PAGE - AN­NETTE BEARD

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.

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