The Colusa County Office of Education has kicked off a EduNet test pilot program in Williams to help ensure that all students in the county have access to the internet necessary to complete their distance learning coursework.
Alex Evans, director of Technology for the Colusa County Office of Education, said CCOE began the Colusa County EduNet project about three years ago to address the digital homework gap that hinders students’ distance learning experiences throughout the county.
“This problem intensified with COVID-19,” said Evans. “Now with California mandates to provide distance learning opportunities for students in Colusa County we have stepped in to fill this gap and are working to provide equitable access to all our students.”
According to Evans, local internet service providers do not provide sustainable service within the county and many regions are not covered by any providers other than satellite, which is unsuitable by educational standards for distance learning.
As the test pilot for the project expansion, Williams Unified School District has purchased LTE radios and antennas to safely and securely extend the CCOE’s network to students in their homes over LTE.
Evans said CCOE is working with T-Mobile to use their unallocated spectrum within the county to provide the LTE signal for the programs. They have also partnered with the City of Williams to mount these radios and antennas on the Williams water tower.
“Once this equipment is in place and turned on, we will be giving students in Williams that do not currently have internet access an LTE router to take home with them,” said Evans. “This LTE router will convert the LTE spectrum from our radios and antennas and convert it to Wi-Fi. Students will use their school devices that they have taken home to safely connect to our network for distance learning.”
The equipment was installed on the water tower last week and there are plans to test the LTE coverage over the next few weeks with the goal of having it ready for students to use when school starts next month, said Evan.
“Once this test pilot is successful, we plan to expand the Colusa County EduNet to help address other areas in our county that are underserved,” said Evans. “We are looking for potential partners in our area that can help provide us vertical assets as we expand throughout the county.”