New 100-gigabit network puts N.D. schools, government on leading edge of internet connectivity and speed

<< All News Thursday, March 22, 2018 - 01:00 pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler, Chief Information Officer Shawn Riley and other officials today announced a 100-gigabit upgrade to the state network that will put North Dakota schools and government on the nation’s leading edge of internet connectivity and speed.

The state Information Technology Department (ITD) recently signed a contract extension with Dakota Carrier Network (DCN) providing for significant upgrades to the state network known as STAGEnet, which serves state and local governments, K-12 education and higher education.

When finished, the upgrades will position North Dakota as the first state to achieve 1-gigabit connectivity to every school district in the state. Completion is anticipated in summer 2019.

“North Dakota already ranks high nationally in terms of network connectivity for the K-12 community, and these significant yet cost-neutral upgrades will ensure our schools have the bandwidth and speed they need to prepare students for a 21st century economy impacted by rapid technological change,” Burgum said. “State and local taxpayers will benefit through a network that makes their governments more efficient and responsive to the communities and citizens they serve.”

Kirsten Baesler, North Dakota’s superintendent of public instruction, said the upgrade would be especially useful to North Dakota’s K-12 schools.

“Our students find much of their information on the internet. Classroom instruction is often visual and makes heavy use of video. There is rising demand for classes on laptops, in which students learn from teachers in another location,” Baesler said. “Also, a robust internet is especially useful for personalized learning. Students are using platforms that provide customized information to individual students. All of this needs a lot of internet horsepower. This contract, and the Dakota Carrier Network’s planned upgrades of our internet network, will give our teachers more instructional options, strengthen learning in our classrooms, and make innovative education projects possible.”

Under a two-year contract extension with DCN that takes effect July 1, 2019, the core network and internet capacity will both increase to 100 gigabits which will represent a 150 percent to 200 percent increase in current core network capacities. Connectivity speeds for end users will increase to a minimum of 1 gigabit per second – representing anywhere from a twofold to tenfold increase in capacity for K-12 schools, and 20 to 100 times faster for local governments.

While the K-12 community will be the most significant beneficiary of the upgrades, all STAGEnet stakeholders will benefit. Current local government connectivity is typically 10 or 50 megabits per second.

“Providing world class service includes creating a foundation for students and state and local government team members for today and the future,” Riley said. “This important step helps North Dakota connect virtually across rural and urban areas, empowers a 21st century workforce, and demonstrates the benefit of an enterprise approach to procuring technology infrastructure.”

ITD’s current contract with DCN was set to expire June 30, 2019, but it allowed for extension opportunities. Over the past several months, ITD has been negotiating a two-year extension that will become effective July 1, 2019. 

Riley noted ITD negotiated the contract to be cost-neutral, meaning the upgrades won’t increase costs to taxpayers. He credited a decision made by state lawmakers in 1999 to create STAGEnet, and formally recognize the partnership between state government, K-12 and higher education and local governments under one umbrella to deliver broadband and security services.  This combined with a strong partnership with the provider community has helped North Dakota become a leader in broadband across the country.

DCN has been a strategic partner in providing broadband connectivity for the state network since 2000.

“It’s an honor for DCN and our 15 owner companies to provide gigabit internet service to every K-12 school in our state,” said Seth Arndorfer, DCN CEO. “DCN has been keeping North Dakota’s public schools connected since 2000 and we know that reliable, fast broadband connectivity is key to keeping our kids competitive in our increasingly digital world. We’re proud to bring gigabit service to our schools, government offices and higher education institutions and help North Dakota lead the nation in connectivity. We’re also thankful to Gov. Burgum and the state Information Technology Department for recognizing this important milestone.”

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