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Tamaqua Area to adjust Internet service contract for more capacity

Published January 20. 2010 05:00PM

The Tamaqua Area School District is adjusting its current contract with its Internet provider.

On Tuesday evening, the district's board of education authorized Business Manager Connie Ligenza on Tuesday to enter into an addendum to its contract with PenTeleData Limited Partnership.

The purpose of the move is increase Tamaqua Area's wireless bandwidth and transport speed, which has been operating over its current capacity and costing the district overage fees.

Ligenza reported to the board's finance committee last week that the district is in the third year of a five year pact with PenTeleData for its Internet service, which will expire on June 30, 2012. In order to increase its wireless capacity, the district will have to pay an additional $894 per month.

Tamaqua Area would be eligible to be reimbursed a 56 percent discount on that amount through the federal E-rate program, Ligenza noted.

The district is currently applying for the E-rate program for the 2010-11 school year, she added.

Technology Director Ken Dunkelberger confirmed the district is operating at its wireless threshold.

"From the beginning of the day, we're maxed out now, and we're paying a premium on top of it, " he said. "We're actually saving money by going to increase it."

Dunkelberger said the district's daily capacity starts at a base of two gigabites but averages about four gigabites a day.

Board President Larry A. Wittig asked if the district couldn't put shift part of its Internet service to another provider.

Dunkelberger said that is possible but it wouldn't be in the district's best interests to do so.

About 10 years ago, Service Electric installed "dark fiber" in Tamaqua Area's schools, meaning the district has its own dedicated fiber-optic network. The exception is West Penn Elementary School, which is in a differenct coverage zone and is on a Prolog Virtual Private Network (VPN).

"The infrastructure is already built into the schools," said Dunkelberger. "To switch to another provider, we would have to build a whole other infrastructure."

While the signal may be wireless, the fiber-optic infrastructure is needed to spread that signal to the district's buildings and equipment.

Since the district signed its last five-year contract, it has added a lot of internal server-launched technology, mentioned Dunkelberger.

Assistant Superintendent Raymond J. Kinder mentioned the Classrooms of the Future and distance learning programs. That equipment requires a lot more capacity to operate.

"We didn't imagine we'd be in this position," said Superintendent Carol Makuta.

"Isn't the same thing going to happen the next time we negotiate a contract?" asked Wittig.

"Back in the day, we bought what we could afford, but we're growing very quickly," stated Dunkelberger.

The district could use a proxy server to check what classes and equipment are using the greatest amounts of capacity and regulate that, something it isn't doing right now, noted Dunkelberger.

"We want to see where it's going and where the spikes are," he said. "New systems have the ability to monitor this bandwidth. A proxy server can turn it up, turn it down, regulate hours," he said.

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