Education Service Center, Region 20, located in San Antonio, Texas, serves more than 465,000 students and 127 independent school districts, charters, and private schools across 20 counties in the San Antonio Region of Texas
Region 20 ESC has an established history of providing technology services, including transport and Internet access to local school districts and charters utilizing the consortium model. Upon reviewing the 2016 E-rate funding data for the region, it was determined that the region, would pay nearly 90M over the next 2 decades for internet access that was universally determined to be inadequate. A large portion of those funds were provided by the Federal E-rate program, but nearly 23M of that would be paid by districts to service providers for bandwidth that did not meet their needs. In 2017, more than 70 districts and charter schools participated in an RFP process for the Region 20 ESC Fiber Consortium. The winning bid proposed the use of over 750 miles of existing “dark” fiber and the additional build of approximately 590 miles of new fiber. Of the final 62 participating LEA’s, approximately 60% are rural districts who were limited by existing infrastructure. The vast majority of new fiber was in these areas. Using Category 1 construction, and State Match dollars, 98% of the dollars used for construction were provided. The remaining 2% was divided amongst the districts in a monthly fiber fee which includes: ISP services with 10 Gbps available bandwidth, maintenance, support, DDoS protection options, and E-rate administrative filing. The dedicated network provides for connections of 1, 2, 4 or 10 Gbps depending on existing district infrastructure. This capability prevented excessive immediate infrastructure upgrade cost being incurred by districts if they were not able to handle 10Gbps at the start. As districts go through their normal lifecycle and growth management plan they can upgrade infrastructure at their pace to allow for additional BW down the road without new contracts, Fiber costs or pricing changes. In 2019 the consortium was expanded to include a second project including 11 rural libraries, additional LEA’s that missed the original 2017 project and several Wide Area Network builds for existing Fiber20 sites. ESC Region 20 received an approved Funding Commitment Decision Letter (RFCDL) for construction in Feb 2019, and a Revised RFCDL in Aug 2019 with an approved construction extension to July 2020. The initial project completed on 1 July 2020. The second phase is on target to finish by August 2021.
The goal of the Region 20 ESC Fiber Consortium is to provide:
- Equitable access to low-cost dedicated bandwidth to all schools regardless of their size and location.
- Ability to scale and grow Internet bandwidth as the district needs change.
- Single support path to all consortium members by Region 20 ESC.
- Opportunity for districts to partner with ESC or other districts to share services over the consortium’s dedicated network.
- Provide for long term budgeting with a fixed cost for LEA’s
- Exceed the Commissioner’s 1Mbps per student mandate
Achieving these goals has positively impacted nearly 320,000 students at 650 campuses and libraries with potential long-term savings of $13 million. Overall cost was reduced from $2.25 per Mbsp to $0.25 per Mbsp across the consortium and most districts saw a 10x Increase in bandwidth. Future growth will include rural areas in a path to join the Fiber 11 network at ESC Region 11. This will enable a large portion of mostly small rural districts to participate at a manageable cost point.
The Region 20 ESC Fiber Consortium network infrastructure will serve as the catalyst to provide safe and secure access to digital resources, enhancing the overall student learning experience, and improving educational outcomes.