Comcast Solutions Support Streaming Video and Cloud Computing in Suburban Chicago School Districts

Expanding bandwidth, broadening learning capacities.

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  • Located 25 miles northwest of Chicago, Arlington Heights School District 25 serves more than 5,000 elementary and middle school students.
  • When these students are ready for high school, they attend one of six campuses administered by Township High School District 214.
  • This is the state’s second largest high school district, serving approximately 12,500 students in a 68 square mile area.
  • Each district wanted to link multiple school facilities for the fast, reliable and secure exchange of information, while also ensuring enough bandwidth for curriculum delivery, streaming video, and robust educational applications.
Solution Requirements
  • Seamlessly link the staff district-wide on a scalable and secure network and improve speed of all data traffic
  • Improve access to information, from the student data management system to online resources
  • Support media-rich educational applications
  • Maximize access to the Internet at all facilities
  • Increase backup speed for business continuity purposes
  • Support cloud computing for collaborative educational initiatives
  • Comcast Business Ethernet Network Service
  • Comcast Business Ethernet Dedicated Internet Service
  • Increases in bandwidth and network speed improve curriculum delivery
  • Backup time for business continuity cut in half
  • Substantial decrease in communication costs

The Business Challenge:
Many school districts nationwide have two things in common: they utilize a communications network to link staff and data, and they rely on streaming video for educational purposes. While this appears to be an efficient and effective use of technology, it is often fraught with unreliable network connections and slow throughput.

“Our challenge was pretty clear-cut,” explained Chris Fahnoe, Director of Technology for Arlington Heights School District 25. “We just didn’t have enough bandwidth to support more and more users or feature-rich educational applications. “Our current solution was slow and unreliable.”

Keith Bockwoldt, Director of Technology for Township High School District 214, echoed that sentiment. “Not only was our communications solution unreliable, it was also inflexible,” he said. “Our goal was to segment our video, voice, and data traffic over the network to ensure quality, and our previous solution didn’t allow for that. Since every aspect of our district runs on the network, from student records and financial data to HVAC and security systems, we needed to be confident the network wouldn’t go down.”

Both districts considered a number of solutions, from building and managing their own networks to adding more T1 lines. Then both directors of technology met their local Comcast representative.

The Comcast Business Solutions:
Now each district uses two Comcast Business Solutions. These solutions provide fast, reliable and secure access and exchange of information, as well as new opportunities for media-rich educational applications and cloud computing.

Both districts use the Comcast Business Ethernet Network Service to ensure communication and secure data exchange among locations. This includes 11 sites (nine schools, the administration building, and the facilities office) in Arlington Heights District 25 and seven sites (district office and six high schools) in Township High School District 214.

“Comcast Business Ethernet Network Service has become a critical part of our school system,” Fahnoe said. “It provides the speed, security, and flexible bandwidth we need to seamlessly connect multiple locations and deliver curriculum. But it also helps tremendously in our backup process. Under our old model, backups often took more than one day to complete. That meant the backup process was still ongoing when the next school day started, which took bandwidth away from curriculum instruction. Now we leverage Comcast’s flexible bandwidth for backups, completing the process in half the time, which gives our teachers all the bandwidth they need for classroom instruction.” Fahnoe said the Comcast solution also helps educators deliver rich media to classrooms. “These applications require a great deal of bandwidth, which Comcast delivers,” he explained. “We house the media/videos locally, and since Comcast delivers them more reliability and faster than our previous solution, we’ve seen a tremendous increase in usage.”

The Comcast Business Ethernet Network Service also has enabled both districts to engage in cloud computing. Educators at Arlington Heights School District 25 store presentations online and work on them collaboratively, which requires a consistent connection and enough bandwidth. Township High School District 214 is going one step further.

“Comcast gives us the bandwidth that will enable us to support cloud computing through the state’s network, which is called IlliniCloud,” Bockwoldt said. “We want to be one of the co-location sites, which will enable us to further reduce our costs associated with educational applications.”

Comcast Business Ethernet Network Service has also helped improve the security system in Township High School District 214. “We moved to an IP video security system over the Comcast network, and the picture quality is phenomenal compared to the digital system we used to have, which didn’t run over a network,” Bockwoldt explained. “One of the local courtroom judges told us he’s never seen such clear video, and this enables us to have better success at prosecuting offenders. After all, security in school districts is paramount.”

The second Comcast solution used by both districts is Comcast Business Ethernet Dedicated Internet Service. Designed for organizations that need fast and continuous connections between their networks and the Internet, this solution gives Township High School District 214 the bandwidth it needs to support multiple online initiatives, including Web 2.0. “Web 2.0 enables our students and teachers to share, collaborate, and exchange ideas via the Internet. It has the potential to change the face of education,” Bockwoldt said, “And we are a part of it because of Comcast.”

Arlington Heights School District 25 uses Comcast Business Ethernet Dedicated Internet Service for a similar purpose. “We access Discovery Education, which provides streaming video and digital resources to schools,” Fahnoe said. “Comcast connects our classrooms to a world of learning. In turn, this helps our educators be more effective, which helps advance student achievement.”

The Results:
Increases in Bandwidth and Network Speed Improve Curriculum Delivery
Both districts report improved performance of media-rich educational tools. That’s because the Comcast Business Ethernet Network Service and the Comcast Business Ethernet Dedicated Internet Service provide the bandwidth and speed needed to access these materials, whether the media is housed locally or is available via the Internet.

Both districts also take advantage of streaming video. In fact, the Comcast network serves as the backbone for the Health Careers Pathway Program in Township High School district 214. This grand-funded program awards students with certification as emergency medical technicians or nursing assistants. Comcast enables students to interact with adult medical professionals in real time, via streaming video, as part of their course work.

Backup Time for Business Continuity Cut in Half
Comcast Business Ethernet Network Service also provides the flexible bandwidth needed to dramatically improve the time it takes to back up data at Arlington Heights School District 25. This data is critical to overall operations, so it must be safeguarded and readily available. In the past, the backup process could take more than one day, but now it takes half that time with Comcast.

Substantial Decrease in Communication Costs
Both districts have experienced decreased communication costs using the Comcast solutions. For example, Arlington Heights School District 25 prepared a cost analysis comparing Comcast to its previous solution and determined the average cost per megabit was $6.50 with Comcast versus $117.33 with its previous provider. Township High School District 214 cited a total savings of more than $400,000 a year with Comcast, as compared to its previous solution.

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