New service allows the school to say goodbye to slow connection and hello to Gigabit speeds.
Loveland Pulse, the City’s communications utility providing high-speed internet and voice services, has installed its 100% fiber-optic network with gigabit internet speeds to Big Thompson Elementary School (BTES) which had poor network connectivity. Pulse was able to capitalize on a Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) project and the power division’s recent electric line upgrades to install its network up to the school.
“Our partnership with the Thompson School District made us aware of the severe need at BTES. When our team realized that we could work together with other utilities to save money installing our fiber, we knew we had to jump at the opportunity,” said Brieanna Reed-Harmel, Pulse manager. “The move provides cost savings to Pulse and advances the goal of improved connections for the City and the school district. We will continue to take advantage of other ways to save money and get more people connected through these kinds of collaborations. ”
The City’s move solves a big problem for BTES and Thompson School District (TSD) as students return to schools for in-person learning. Unlike other TSD schools, BTES was on a much slower internet connection due to its location. A 4G connection was turned on over the summer and before that, the school was limited to using radio point-to-point at a bandwidth much lower than 4G. According to TSD Chief Technology Officer Matt Kuhn, before Pulse, the bandwidth at BTES was so low that the school was limited in the types of learning software it could access – the same software that other schools with better internet connections were able to implement.
“BTES Students could not do nearly as much, as quickly, on the internet as other students. Since most of our software is cloud-based, this was a major problem,” said Kuhn. “Now BTES is not limited by their bandwidth. They can video conference, engage in interactive software, and more with ease thanks to the reliability, high-speed, and symmetrical speeds. Plus, the district no longer has to maintain two different kinds of internet connections to our schools, easing processes and saving us money.”
For BTES, a TSD Ubiquitous Technology Access School focused on blended learning and STEM, the network limitations had a cost to teachers and students as well.
According to BTES principal Sarah Walgast, the school has been working to increase technology integration for a few years now. Teachers have been building blended learning models with the hopes of incorporating virtual field trips and tours, meetings with students at other schools and community groups and more. The unreliable network made it impossible for the school to successfully incorporate those resources. BTES even needed to stagger when classes were online, even through testing, so that students could work online uninterrupted.
“It was extremely frustrating for our teachers to build out effective blended learning curriculum for students and have our poor connection stand in the way,” said Walgast. “The digital world is our students’ world and as a school, we need to meet our students where they are at. Upgrading to the Loveland Pulse network will help us immensely and we are incredibly grateful for this partnership that will bring so much value to our school and our families.”
Pulse began constructing its network in November 2019 and it will take three to four years from that date to complete phase 1 of the project, within Loveland city limits. Phase two includes the rest of the City’s electric service area, including Big Thompson Canyon residents.
“Our local Pulse team can’t wait to see how our network improves the lives of the teachers and students in our schools, starting with BTES,” said Reed-Harmel. “We know there is a critical need for reliable, high-speed internet service across the area and want to thank everyone in the community for their patience as we are doing everything we can to install our network safely and efficiently to get our residents and businesses the connections they deserve.”