End of State Broadband Contract Means Faster Internet and Lower Costs for Rural Idaho School Districts

The end of the State mandated contract with a single broadband provider has resulted in many rural schools in southeast Idaho returning to their local internet providers this month, with great benefits for schools and taxpayers alike – specifically, more bandwidth speed for a fraction of the cost.

At 10 AM Friday morning, Rockland School District in rural Southeastern Idaho, pulled the plug on their Internet service from the IEN (Idaho Education Network), and switched to a much faster fiber-optic connection from local broadband company Direct Communications, for a fraction of the cost. While the state, under the now-void IEN contract, had been paying ENA (Education Networks of America) over $6,000.00 a month for a 20 Mbps Internet service to Rockland School District, for the 2016 school year the school district will pay less than a third of that cost for a new 100 Mbps service.

 Rockland School District Technology Director, Rose Mathews, gives a thumbs up to her new 100Mb speed from Direct Communications, after running a speed test showing that the school is receiving a fully symmetrical 100Mb speed.

Rockland School District Technology Director, Rose Mathews, gives a thumbs up to her new 100Mb speed from Direct Communications, after running a speed test showing that the school is receiving a fully symmetrical 100Mb speed.

Rose Mathews, Technology Director for Rockland School District, said “We are very happy to be back with Direct Communications as our main service provider. The choice to go to IEN was purely a budget decision for us originally—the State provided the funding for all of our internet access, which allowed us to move our money into other things, but Rockland School District is pleased to be doing business directly with Direct Communications again. They have always been an important part of our community.”

The idea that rural Idaho schools were going to have better internet service under State control turned out to be false in many cases. For example, the Westside School District in Dayton, Idaho, was already being served by state-of-the-art fiber-optic cable by local fiber broadband provider Direct Communications way back in 2008. The local Idaho broadband company, which has been a local southeast Idaho family-owned business since 1954,  has specialized in bringing fiber to remote areas for over 10 years, but when the State IEN contract declared that schools had to use CenturyLink service to get the IEN reimbursement, Westside school district was forced to disconnect their fiber connection and switch back to an outdated T1 (1.5 Mbps) copper connection, which was a big step backwards as far as technology goes—about a decade backwards in fact. Where the district had only been paying a few hundred dollars per month for reliable fiber Internet service, once the IEN contract was in place, the Idaho State taxpayers were saddled with paying over $8000 a month for outdated copper service to that same location, and a local business was forced aside. The same thing happened with Preston School District, who just this week reactivated their fiber line through Direct Communications, which had been sitting dormant since 2009. Preston School District will now receive double their previous speed, for about a fifth of the monthly cost.

Rockland School District, a small 1A school located in a town of 295 people, found themselves in a similar situation, where despite their remote location and small size, had been enjoying a fiber optic connection for several years through local independent telecommunications company Direct Communications.  For ENA to connect to Rockland School eventually took four tiers of providers because CenturyLink has no network in Rockland —local network provider Direct Communications handed the circuit off to Idaho regional fiber network provider Syringa Networks, who delivered it to CenturyLink, who then handed it to ENA, who was listed as the final service provider.  This was standard practice for many remote districts, because CenturyLink does not have a presence in much of rural Idaho—a great number of small towns are served by local independent telephone companies, many of them started as farmers’ cooperatives. Each provider added their costs down the line. The $6,090.00 per month that state taxpayers were paying ENA for service to Rockland SD was by no means an outlier—many rural school districts were paying far more per month for service.

One of the reasons the costs skyrocketed was that under the state-wide IEN contract, all local school districts were shielded from seeing the actual cost of their Internet service. Mathews stated: “They never told us what the bill was. It was kept very quiet. I knew it was more than they needed to pay, because I knew there were multiple tiers of providers being used, but I think we were all kind of shocked by just how much the state was paying for service to some of our schools.”

Aberdeen School District Superintendent, Jane Ward, explained that she never knew what the IEN contract was costing the state until the state legislature asked for those figures to be published earlier this month. “We only knew that the state was paying 100% of our Internet service cost. Because the state was providing service to our school, it eliminated the annual paperwork I had to acquire to qualify our district for e-rate subsidies.” Mrs. Ward was extremely concerned when the school district was suddenly informed by the State Department of Education on February 16, 2015 that the school districts could be losing their Internet service as early as February 22. Mrs. Ward indicated she was fortunate enough to be able to immediately turn to their local cable provider, Direct Communications. “Direct Communications brought the school district Internet service over 12 years ago when no one else would provide it at a reasonable cost.  We have had a great relationship over the years, and I knew our school was actually being serviced by their fiber underneath the IEN layers.” Mrs. Ward went on to say, “It was an easy decision to go to Direct Communications for help.  I knew I was saving the taxpayers money by switching, and I was confident the service was going to be just as reliable as before. Direct Communications worked with our IT administrator to reconfigure the fiber connections on a Friday afternoon when school was out, and it took less than an hour.”  The ENA cost for Aberdeen School District was $6,496.28 per month for 60Mb service.  The new cost with Direct Communications fiber for the next school year will be less than a third of that cost for 100Mb service.

Lucas McHargue installs conduit for fiber optic cable to Bear Lake High School in Montpelier Idaho.

Lucas McHargue installs conduit for fiber optic cable to Bear Lake High School in Montpelier Idaho.

Direct Communications had a very busy week with crews working around the clock in three small Idaho towns this week to complete fiber builds to local school districts before the Friday E-rate deadline. Grace School District, North Gem School District, and Bear Lake School District will all be served by new fiber optic connections and faster speeds than they had before with IEN. The other important feature of this change is that these districts will now all be able to choose what bandwidth speed they want, no matter the size of their school and with the knowledge and comfort that they are using taxpayer dollars effectively.

James Murdoch, the Network Administrator of Grace School District & North Gem School District, said of his experience with Direct Communications: “With barely over a week’s notice we contacted Direct Communications with what we needed and their people jumped into action. Daniel Parrish was able to meet our difficult needs and coordinate everything, taking late-night phone calls to make it happen. Matt Farr, their engineer, was at one of our schools watching his sons in a basketball game. I was able to locate him and between games he was able to do a site survey and give an initial approval on the project. We appreciated him taking his personal time to help us. The Directcom installation crews worked long hours well into the night several nights to bring the fiber to our school. They did an outstanding job to quickly and efficiently make the project possible. Brian Black, their Senior Network Administrator, was willing to meet with us any time to help configure our equipment and actually finish with the installation. I was pleased at the courteous, quick and professional manner that each individual employee had. Rather than acting put-out by the unreasonable timeline that we had given them they took it as more of a challenge and were happy to help us achieve our needs.

2015 Grace underground tunnel

Lucas McHargue and Brenden Argyle pull fiber through an underground tunnel in Grace High School.

We are more than happy at the result and were able to meet both our short-term and long-term needs going forward.  Both School Districts were able to avoid any downtime. What could have been a challenging, miserable experience has turned into a very positive one. The additional bandwidth that we have is still at a fraction of the cost that we would have had otherwise. We are thrilled. It has been a very positive experience.”

Matt Farr wanted to thank the local contractors, Track Utilities and Das-Co who worked alongside Directcom crews and helped get fiber to the schools on time.

Mathews reflects: “The IEN was a good concept. The funding for Internet service was important, because local communities aren’t always willing to pay for adequate Internet service. The network management and the help with the routers and tech support was good. The schools still need a way to connect together to provide shared classes and video conferencing. Where the IEN went wrong was forcing everyone to use the same internet service provider for basic bandwidth. As long as they allow us to choose our own provider, I think there is a place for the IEN. I hope our legislature will still find a way to continue to cover the full cost of Internet service to schools, because that is just becoming more important each year.

For more info on the history of the IEN contract, see http://idahoptv.org/idreports/ien/

Directcom Sponsors Idaho High Schools Sports – 2014 Edition

Bear Lake High School student athletes and staff accept a sponsorship check for $500 from Direct Communications.

Bear Lake High School student athletes and staff accept a sponsorship check for $500 from Direct Communications.

Direct Communications donated $500 to each of the High School Athletic Programs within the company’s service areas again at the end of the 2013/2014 school year. Direct Communications has an ongoing program to support local high school athletics in the communities served by the broadband company, and offers incentive for student athletes to earn donations for their schools  through their participation and own extra effort in all varsity games.

Daniel Parrish of Direct Communications presents Preston High School athletes with a sponsorship check for $500.

Daniel Parrish of Direct Communications presents Preston High School athletes with a sponsorship check for $500.

During football season, Direct Communications pays $15 for every touchdown at home games. At the same time the Girls Varsity Volleyball teams could earn $5 for each ace they served. During basketball season, varsity athletes could earn $5 for every 3-point shot scored during home games.

Directcom schools program coordinator, Daniel Parrish, said he was grateful to all the ADs, principals and superintendents who had been very open and helpful. “They all were very gracious about making us part of their school family.”

Aberdeen High School student athletes accept a sponsorship check for $500 from Direct Communications. — with Daniel Parrish at Aberdeen High School.

Aberdeen High School student athletes accept a sponsorship check for $500 from Direct Communications. — with Daniel Parrish at Aberdeen High School.

Parrish stated that although donations of this nature often require earmarks, Direct Communications has placed no restrictions or requirements on these donations, and the schools are free to use the money however they think is best.

Daniel Parrish presents Grace High School athletes with a sponsorship check for $500.

Grace High School athletes with a sponsorship check for $500.

Although none of the schools reported a points aggregate this past year above the $500 guaranteed donation which Direct Communications had pledged to each school, Jeremy Smith, General Manager for Direct Communications in Idaho, said he enjoyed the ongoing relationship between the broadband company and School District. “As local service provider, we try to build up every community that we serve. Supporting schools makes good sense for both our businesses and our communities.  High speed internet and education go hand in hand, so we view these types of donations as a win-win.” He reminded school administrators that Direct Communications can now provide circuit speeds up to 1Gig upon request.

Daniel Parrish presents North Gem High School athletes with a sponsorship check for $500.  - in Bancroft Idaho

Daniel Parrish presents North Gem High School athletes with a sponsorship check for $500.
– in Bancroft Idaho

Directcom in the News – Direct Communications Helps Sponsor Bear Lake High School Athletes

July 3, 2013 – Montpelier Idaho -Directcom in the News – Direct Communications Helps Sponsor Bear Lake High School Athletes

Printed in the News-Examiner, July 3, 2013 Vol 119, Vol 18

News-Examiner July 3, 2013

News-Examiner July 3, 2013

Directcom in the News – Aberdeen High School Athletes Benefit from Direct Communications Program

Published in the Aberdeen Times, July 3, 2013

Aberdeen Times Vol 17 102nd year, Aberdeen Idaho, July 3 2013

Aberdeen Times Vol 17 102nd year, Aberdeen Idaho, July 3 2013

Direct Communications Sponsors Bear Lake High School Athletic Programs

Direct Communications Sponsors Bear Lake High School Athletic Program

Daniel Parrish of Directcom presents a check for $500 to Bear Lake High Principal, Alan Schwab, and Athletic Director, Polly Dahlke, and student athletes.

Daniel Parrish of Directcom presents a check for $500 to Bear Lake High Principal, Alan Schwab, and
Athletic Director, Polly Dahlke, and student athletes.

Direct Communications donated $500 to the Bear Lake High School Athletic Program this month as part of an effort to support local high school athletics in the communities served by the broadband company. At the start of the 2013 school year, Directcom approached Bear Lake High Principal, Alan Schwab, and

Athletic Director, Polly Dahlke, and offered a way for student athletes to earn donations for their school  through their participation and effort in all varsity games.

During football season, Direct Communications pledged to pay $15 for every touchdown at home games. At the same time the Girls Varsity Volleyball teams could earn $5 for each ace they served. Once basketball season started, varsity athletes could earn $5 for every 3-point shot scored during home games.

During the 2012-2013 school year, Bear Lake High Varsity teams reported a total of $395 in earnings through this sponsorship program, including 10 touchdowns, 18 volleyball aces, and 31 3-point shots.  Direct Communications added an extra $105, since they had pledged a donation of at least $500 to each school that participated in the program . Jeremy Smith, General Manager for Direct Communications in Idaho, said he hoped to continue strengthening  the relationship between the broadband company and Bear Lake School District. “As local service provider, we try to build up every community that we serve. Supporting schools makes good sense for both our businesses and our communities.  High speed internet and education go hand in hand, so we view these types of donations as a win-win.”

Direct Communications at Bear Lake High School Career Day

Direct Communications at Bear Lake High School Career Day

Donna Passey represented Direct Communications at the first annual Bear Lake High School Career Day on March 22nd at the high school. Presenters were divided up into different groups that were similar. Direct Communications spoke as part of the media and communications group. There were four presenters in this group and each was given about 10 minutes to discuss their business, what type of employees were needed and the qualifications. Students listened and were very polite and given time to ask questions. Direct Communications also gave out pencils, flyers on their services, and frisbees.

Principal Allan Schwab said, “This was a great way to expose students to some of the many opportunities awaiting them. I believe our students got a lot out of this, but I also believe it was a very good way for our community to come into the school and interact with the students. We need to work together to educate our kids, and this was a great event for that.” Plans are already in place for next year’s career fair.

Renee Davis, Bear Lake Montpelier Chamber of Commerce explained the goal of the career fair: “We are looking to our business owners and community leaders to step up and take advantage of this great opportunity to give back to our youth. Our vision is to provide a forum to bridge the gap between  local business owners and our future work force. We want to give our kids a place to go to connect with professionals in their fields of interest.”

Direct Communications employs local residents in the communities we serve, and currently have 6 employees who reside in the Bear Lake area.

Direct Communications donates $1000.00 to Pocatello/Chubbuck School District 25.

On October 25, 2010, Direct Communications donated $1000.00 to School District 25.  This was in conjunction with a June 25, 2010, Direct Communications fundraiser for local education.  The goal was to show appreciation to the teachers in District 25.  Costa Vida donated the food for the event, and several local businesses donated raffle items to raise money for the school district.  Direct Communications introduced Amped Up Wireless in the area, and pledged to donate $100.00 for each new install of the product during the launch. 

Anya Beauchat, Sales Office Adminsitrator for Direct Communications in Pocatello, presents donation check to School District 25.

Anya Beauchat, Sales Office Adminsitrator for Direct Communications in Pocatello, presents donation check to School District 25.

This story was covered by KPVI News 6, who aired a segment on the 6pm news about the donation. To see the video, visit:

http://www.kpvi.com/story.php?id=30362&n=15206

                With the combined efforts of all involved, we were able to raise $1000.00 to donate to School District 25.  Anya Beauchat, Sales Office Manager of Direct Communications, said “We are proud to be donating to a school district, where not only some of the employee’s children attend, but also to a district where teachers and staff consistently go above and beyond.”  She adds, “Through this donation, Direction Communications would like to both thank, and honor, School District 25 for providing our children with the skills and tools they will need to ensure the future growth of Pocatello.”

                When contacted for comment, Shelley Allen the District’s Education Foundation Director said, “We are fortunate to live in a community that values education and partners with education. It was wonderful of Direct Communications to think of the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District’s students, for giving, when planning their celebration.”  She added, “This donation benefits our kids, and is greatly appreciated.”

                Direct Communications presented a check on October 25, 2010 at 9:00 a.m during the school district Cabinet Meeting at 3115 Pole Line Road, in Pocatello.

Direct Communications to donate $100 of each sale in July to School District #25.

Direct Communications to donate $100 of each sale to Pocatello/Chubbuck School District #25.

 Pocatello, Idaho (Tuesday, June 22, 2010) Direct Communications, a local internet service provider, will host a benefit event for School District #25 on Friday, June 25th, 2010, at the Direct Communications Chubbuck office located at 485 W. Chubbuck Rd. Suite B, and will donate $100 of each sale of its new Amped Up Wireless Broadband service during the month of July 2010, to School District #25.

In continuation of their loyalty to southeast Idaho communities, Direct Communications is excited to announce an event to benefit School District #25 scheduled for June 25th, 2010, 11 am-6 pm.  This event will include live entertainment with local bands, games, cotton candy, prizes and more for children in the area as well as free food donated by Costa Vida. Free massages will be provided by Sunsations Spa. Many prizes will be given out at the event, including a free Xbox 360.  Parents can receive information from Direct Communications knowledgeable staff regarding free services available through the internet, as well as the new Amped Up internet product available from Direct Communications. 

Direct Communications will begin the event with a ribbon cutting in conjunction with the Pocatello Chamber of Commerce for the new Direct Communications Chubbuck office located at 485 W. Chubbuck Rd. Suite B, and the festivities will commence directly following.  In support of our schools and children, a donation jar will be available and Direct Communications will commit to donating $100 of each sale that day and through the month of July to School District #25.

The general public is invited to attend this event that is set to be both beneficial, informative, and fun for children and adults.

Jeremy Smith, general manager for Direct Communications, said: “When we were looking for ways to get involved in the community, we examined what issues were important right now to families in the Pocatello area, and of course the number one issue everybody was talking about was funding for local schools. We thought this would be a good way to show our support for the community and the issues they care about, and hopefully make a positive lasting impression.”

Shelly Allen, community relations specialist for the Pocatello/Chubbuck School District #25, said: “It’s partnerships like this with local businesses that will help us provide a quality education to students in our area. Any proceeds from this event will go directly to the Education Foundation and will benefit both students and their teachers.”

Direct Communications has a long history of partnering with local school districts, especially in remote rural areas. In many rural towns in Idaho, in places like Aberdeen, Montpelier, Paris, Grace, Thatcher, and many others, Direct Communications was instrumental in bringing the first high-speed internet access to rural school districts. Brigham Griffin, Marketing Director for Direct Communications, explained: “Education and high-speed internet go hand-in-hand. Not only is the education market thirsty for better broadband access to improve educational opportunities for their students, but we find that the more educated people are, the more likely they are to subscribe to higher speed internet services. We want our schools to be strong, because that makes our communities strong and keeps our company healthy.”

Shelly Allen added: “We really appreciate Direct Communications thinking of us and involving us in their planning for this product launch and open house.”

Anya Beauchat, local Direct Communications office administrator for the Pocatello sales office, and organizer of this benefit event said: “As a parent I wanted to find a way to help support our local schools. I hope a lot of people will come out to our event on Friday and show their support for our local school district.”

For more information about the open house on Friday or to contact Direct Communications for product information, call Anya Beauchat at 208 237 9729 or visit www.directcom.com