Gigabit internet is the next generation of broadband internet service that is typically delivered over fiber optic lines and provides speeds of 1,000 Mbps, which is also referred to as “1 Gbps” or “gigabit internet.” While such lightning-fast gigabit connections are available to governments, educational institutions, and large businesses, it’s difficult to get such a fast connection for regular public use. And while outlying areas of Three Rivers must still rely on dial-up internet, Three Rivers Union School now has an internet connection that is 100 times (or more) faster than today’s average broadband service.
Over the past decade, the trend in population growth has been toward city centers. Of the many factors for this, one which may be familiar to Three Rivers residents is a need to stay connected. Time spent sitting in front of a loading computer is lost productivity.
While computers have become a common part of everyday life, the infrastructure to support them in rural areas is often lacking. However, Three Rivers Union School recently completed a three-part technology infrastructure overhaul, putting its infrastructure ahead of most schools and on par with the most technologically advanced elementary schools in California.
Part 1: External connection speed. Through a grant provided by the State of California, TRUS upgraded to gigabit-per-second fiber optic internet. In theory, this should correspond to 1,000 megabytes (or 1,000,000 bytes)per second of information. In practice, it has delivered speeds of around 500 megabytes per second, which is 200 to 500 times faster than most residential connections in Three Rivers. The difference is like going from a bumpy country road to the Autobahn.
Part 2: An internal network capable of handling fast internet and lots of devices. Through federal subsidies, TRUS Foundation funds, and private donations, the school completely overhauled its internal switches and WiFi routers, providing the capacity for lots of devices.
Part 3: One-to-one computing. Each student in grades three through eight have either an iPad or a Chromebook. The device is paired with a Google Classroom account, which allows students to create and store work. Assignments created today can be accessed and built upon for years to come.
In kindergarten through second grade, students and teachers have access to a set of six iPads per classroom, however, TRUS’s philosophy is that face-to-face interaction and hands-on experience is more valuable to younger children and a device in every student’s hands is not a goal to attain at this age.
What this means for students— Skills haven’t changed, and students and former students of the Three Rivers Union School District have a long-term, demonstrated ability of creativity and success. What has changed is the manner in which students are evaluated and the medium in which they are expected to communicate and create.
In addition to print and cursive writing, computer literacy has become a base skill, rather than a skill reserved for the few. Whether it be math, reading, writing, science, social studies, art, drama, engineering, presentation, or music, the computer has become an integral part of the mastery of content. TRUS students now have the ability to utilize new technologies to demonstrate deeper understanding of time-tested concepts.
What this means for the community— Although the school’s fiber optic Internet connection is the first in Three Rivers, the project required upgrades to AT&T’s infrastructure, which will benefit the community. Already, there are more fiber internet projects in the works around town. AT&T now has the ability to support Internet at speeds up to 10 gigs per second at its hub near the school. User demand and economics will determine how and when this technology finds its way to other areas in Three Rivers.