San Diego Unified School District completes large-scale network upgrade


When it comes to keeping its students connected, the San Diego Unified School District thinks big.

More than 180 schools in the district now have access to a fast, reliable 175-Gigabit-per-second Ethernet network as a result of a 54-mile fiber-optic cable network build out deployed by Cox Business, according to school and Cox officials.

The most recent phase of the wide area network (WAN) deployment added 92 schools to the network, which now covers all schools and 130,000 K-12 students in the district, according to officials. The district is the second largest in California.

The network enables all types of digital learning, not only in the classroom but also district learning between schools and organizations outside of the district, school officials said.

“I’d put it up against any K-12 network in the country in terms of its infrastructure because it’s a very robust network,” Dan Stoneman, chief innovation officer for the district, told EdScoop.

“The network upgrade is the firmament and the only reason we care about the firmament is because we want to expand the opportunities for our kids to learn with the highest speed connections to the information on the Web. We want our kids to be able to transform their learning experience so it’s not static,” he said.

The network upgrade was “just the next step in the process to get better technology and faster technology for our kids,” Stoneman said. “We also want our kids to be able to learn outside of the classroom. We’re doing a very large scale, one-to-one take-home computing program for our kids. You can think of [the Cox network] as the back end and the one-to-one and the window to this is computer screen in front of the child.”

He said that the district has just acquired 16,000 Chromebooks for students to take home, kicking off the program.

The network infrastructure to support that effort is the largest fiber project Cox has undertaken for a single customer in San Diego to date, according to company officials.

“The network that we’ve designed for the school district is unique in its construction, the large number of sites being connected and the high-bandwidth capacity that is being delivered,” said Larry Coval, vice president of Cox Business in San Diego.

The network’s capacity relies on dense wavelength division multiplexing, a technology that combines and transmits multiple signals simultaneously at different wavelengths on the same optical fiber to deliver a high capacity of bandwidth.

Stoneman said the network upgrade was funded by a $5 billion bond program that supports the school district, about $700 million of which is dedicated to technology and technical infrastructure. Officials also leveraged the Federal Communications Commission’s E-Rate program, which provided matching dollars to build out the network, he said. The E-Rate program is intended to ensure that schools and libraries have access to affordable telecommunications and information services.

“We’re interested in extending the learning opportunities of our kids in the classroom at high speed, which is the Cox partnership, but we’re also interested in extending learning to these kids at home,” Stoneman said.

“We have our children in our classrooms for 1,000 waking hours a year but our children have 5,000 waking hours a year outside of our classrooms. So what we’re very interested in is the next step, which is being able to provide internet access everywhere for our children,” he said.