Fiber optic internet coming to some remote schools

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Posted January 15, 2021 | By Ainslie Lee, Ocala Gazette

Following approval during Tuesday night’s Marion County School Board meeting, improved internet will be coming to some of the county’s more remote schools.

After Marion County Public School requested fiber optic internet services for Dunnellon Elementary, Dunnellon Middle, Dunnellon High, Romeo Elementary and to the District Data Center, located at 420 SE Alvarez Ave., the board put out a request for bids. After reviewing the three bids, the board’s evaluation committee selected Ocala Fiber Network. The Ocala-owned provider beat out Cox Business and Netsync Network Solutions for the agreement.

The agreement is effective from Jan. 12 through June 30, 2024. However, services and billing won’t start until July 1.

According to the Board, OFN’s services will run MCPS $475,488 through the length of the agreement.

Currently, the four school sites in question have a 1GB circuit, while the District Data Center has a 10GB circuit.

With the new agreement, listed schools will maintain 1GB, with an upgrade capability of 10GB. Meanwhile, the data center will have an upgrade capability of 40GB.

OFN’s services will fall within the Universal Service Support Mechanism for Schools and Libraries, commonly known as the E-Rate program.

According to the Federal Communications Commission’s website, “The FCC’s E-Rate program makes telecommunications and information services more affordable for schools and libraries.

“With funding from the universal service fund, E-Rate provides discounts for telecommunications, internet access and internal connections to eligible schools and libraries.”

According to the FCC, the program’s discounts range from 20 to 90%, depending on the poverty level of the schools.

According to the Universal Service Administrative Company, MCPS filed four funding requests with E-Rate in 2020 and each resulted in a 90% discount.

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