WiscNet Welcomes Jill Hietpas as Community Area Network Liaison

WiscNet is excited to announce the newest addition to the stables at WiscNet World Headquarters – Jill Hietpas. Jill is starting with WiscNet on October 5 in her role as Community Area Network Liaison. Jill is familiar face to many that have been involved with Community Area Networks in recent years. Her most recent role was Broadband Educator with UW-Extension’s Broadband & E-Commerce Education Center. She has, and will continue, to work closely with our friends in the Chippewa Valley and the Chippewa Valley Internetworking Consortium (CINC), supporting WiscNet’s efforts in Northern and Western Wisconsin.

WiscNet will take Jill’s experience and talents and make her available to CANs around the state. Her first order of business will be developing a toolbox of resources. http://www.wiscnet.net/community-area-networks/ is beginning to take shape as the spot to learn about starting, planning, funding, implementing, sustaining, and promoting CANs in one’s own community. Jill, together with others at WiscNet, is available as a “people contact” for anybody interested in learning more.

In a short time we’ll also kick off a new WiscNet workgroup dedicated to developing and supporting emerging leaders in CANs. CANs require a special mix of people and leadership skills. Most glean these skills from their professional “day job" roles; however, there is much to be learned and shared that doesn’t come all that easily for many. Consider this WiscNet workgroup a way to foster the leadership development of those passionate about CANs in your community.

Finally, for a long while we’ve tossed around the idea of a “summit” for CANs across Wisconsin. Jill will join us in making this idea real and beginning to plan some sort of large event dedicated to showcasing and sharing CAN efforts across the state. Stay tuned for more details as this takes shape.

Adding Jill Hietpas is among the first steps towards WiscNet’s “CAN of CANs” strategy – a long-term, strategic focus on WiscNet becoming a “Community Area Network of Community Area Networks.” We are excited to serve as the “people” and “strategies” hub for local communities interested in moving forward. Whether the next step is as simple as a community meeting or as complex as developing and sharing full-on services, regionally or statewide, our goal is to make all CANs better.

WiscNet Workgroup: Extending Internet to Our Communities

WiscNet is gathering leaders throughout Wisconsin’s schools, libraries, hospitals, and municipalities to explore and share strategies to extend Internet access throughout their communities. We invite you to join us Wednesday, November 18 and Thursday, November 19 at the Plaza Hotel & Suites in Eau Claire, Wisconsin to move this conversation further.

Over 20 years we’ve collectively spent billions equipping schools, libraries, hospitals, and municipalities with infrastructure to support high school Internet access. How can we leverage our investments for rural and low-income students, patrons, families, citizens in our communities? Dubbed the “homework gap” in our K12 world, the problem isn’t unique to schools. Libraries, hospitals, and municipalities also seek solutions to efficiently and affordably allow people to use their services wherever, whenever. Strategies range from the simple, providing longer hours, to complex, providing community-based wireless.

On November 18 and 19, WiscNet is connecting people and strategies with discussions and demonstrations of a variety of solutions. This event is free and open to anybody that would like to attend. More information, including registration, is available at http://www.wiscnet.net/extending-internet-to-our-communities/.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Calling all creative coders, hackers, designers and technical young women

NCWIT (National Center for Women & Information Technology) and Wisconsin honors young women active and interested in computing and encourages them to pursue their passion for technology. NCWIT and its Wisconsin affiliate seek high-school-level young women to apply for the NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing

The competition for the 2015-16 NCWIT Award for Aspirations in Computing is open to any U.S. high-school-level female (grades 9-12). Applications will be accepted beginning September 1, 2015, and must be submitted online at https://www.aspirations.org no later than October 26, 2015.  National award recipients will be announced in December, 2015 and Wisconsin award recipients in January, 2016.

Please check our website http://ncwitwiaspirations.pbworks.com. Information there includes help for girls to prepare their application, a recruiting document answering "What's In It for Me?", a video and other flyers.

Winners get cool prizes, gadgets, and scholarships, can join a community of like-minded technical women and meet IT professionals in WI. National award-winners are selected from across the country and the Wisconsin Affiliate Award competitions are selected from within Wisconsin.  All girls at all computing levels are encouraged to apply-we'd like to recognize aspirations, not just accomplishments! 

The Wisconsin Affiliate award winners will receive an engraved award for both the student and her school and all awardees will receive other valuable prizes including scholarship opportunities to be announced soon.

The Wisconsin Affiliate award sponsors include Alverno College, EMC Inc, Milwaukee Area Technical College, New Resources Consulting, Northwestern Mutual, Society for Information Management and UW-Madison.

Questions? Email ncwit.wi@gmail.com

Celebrating the 2014-15 School Year

Last night my daughter exclaimed, “We turned in our math books. It’s officially the end of the year!” It’s been many years since I turned in a math book. That never stops me from celebrating this other “end of the year.” I thought I’d share a few highlights that we’ve experienced across the WiscNet membership this past school year.

Beyond Gigabit

A record number of folks are embracing 1 Gbps connections to WiscNet. We still have some work ahead to achieve the 1 Gbps/1000 students by 2017 target, nonetheless the pace is quickening. Take a few moments this summer to think about your needs in 2016 and beyond. 1-1 programs? BYOD? State testing? We continue to see bandwidth usage double year after year for many of our members. Questions? Contact Jim Young at WiscNet and he’ll help you review options.

Online State Testing

Hats off to all the sysadmins that took on K12 online state testing in 2014-15.  Years of preparation turned to moments of prayer hoping some automatic Java update wouldn’t throw a monkey wrench at go time. We salute your efforts!

New WiscNet Backbone

While most of us were sleeping, WiscNet network engineers were busy upgrading and swapping out the backbone of our entire network. These feats of strength went largely unnoticed. I promise they will be celebrated at Festivus 2015.

WiscNet Filtering

Last summer WiscNet moved folks using our content filtering service over to iBoss. Our members LOVE iBoss. Each box we ship nets 2 or 3 other new people that want to get in on this. Demo units are available. Summer is a great time to test them out. Chat up Rich Turiel here at WiscNet if you are interesting in talking details.

E-Rate Reform

E-Rate reform became real at that FCC level. Many were skeptical about the their ability to implement the proposed changes. They nailed it. $3.9 billion in requests, $3.9 billion in funding headed out the door. We are excited about what 2016-17 has in store once fiber and construction becomes E-Rate eligible. Again, Jim Young is your guy if you want more details as you begin planning for the 2016-17 E-Rate cycle.

Community Area Network Growth

Finally, Community Area Networks. We’ve been talking about communities getting together to address their common networking needs for a while now. Communities coming together as city, county, school, college, library, and hospital leaders and saying, “Let’s stop duplicating efforts.” The number of examples we have here in Wisconsin jumped from 4 to 40 in a very short time. We are itching to help all Wisconsin communities bump these efforts forward another step. Ping Sarah Miller here at WiscNet to learn how.

This Internet thing is bigger than any of us could have ever imagined. Being able to do it as a community – as opposed to a corporation – is what WiscNet is all about. Thank you for the efforts you put into making WiscNet successful this past school year. As your mind begins to wander in these quieter summer months, think about ways WiscNet can help further. Drop us a line.

Thinking Ahead to E-Rate 2016

The E-Rate program just got interesting for schools and libraries. It’s going to take a bit to explain. Fasten your seat belts and keep your arms and legs inside the ride at all times.

The FCC began poking at the E-Rate program in July 2014. In short, they dropped support for telephones and added support for wireless connectivity in schools and libraries. “Nice start, E-Rate.”

In late December the FCC announced that it would increase the funds available for schools and libraries from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion. “Thanks E-Rate Santa!”

We came back after the holidays and started digging into the details. There are three other - very big, very interesting - gifts that E-Rate Santa left behind.

E-Rate Lifts Barriers Preventing Schools and Libraries from Building/Owning Fiber Networks

Beginning in E-Rate 2016 (not this funding year - next) schools and libraries will be allowed to use E-Rate funds to build and own their own fiber infrastructure. They will also be able to spread the non-discounted costs over several years instead of paying it all up front.

Your $100,000 project just turned into a $30,000 project that can be spread over 3 years. 10x the capacity at 1/10 the current state contract rates. You can know own the infrastructure instead of leasing it. It’s paid for after 3 years and yours to use as you see fit (10 Gbps, 1000 Gpbs) years 4 - 20.

E-Rate Adds Money to the Fund

I mentioned earlier that E-Rate Santa raised the funding from $2.4 billion to $3.9 billion per year. Turns out, there’s an extra $1.5 billion laying around from previous years that will get plowed into E-Rate 2015 and 2016. E-Rate 2017, 2018, and 2019 earmarks $1 billion of the overall fund specifically to internal connections.

For the first time in forever, there’s more money available in the E-Rate program.

E-Rate Adds Support for Rural Areas

When the FCC first proposed changes in July 2014, a number of schools and libraries that were previously designated “rural” were reclassified as “urban”. Many communities as small as 2500 found themselves on the wrong side of that line. Changes in December 2014 now consider communities of less than 25,000 to be rural.

Two other details regarding rural schools and libraries. The FCC intends to establish pricing benchmarks in order to keep providers honest with pricing in rural vs. urban areas. The FCC will also require providers respond to RFP’s from schools and libraries if that provider serves that area. Both changes will push providers towards lower, more reasonable pricing.

Interestingly, many of Wisconsin’s best connected schools are already in rural areas. The FCC is doing their best to create more opportunities for rural Wisconsin.

This, friends, is all really big news for schools and libraries looking to support the needs of their communities. Back in 2009 we used the National Broadband Plan and federal broadband stimulus program to ignite interest in making things happen. These strategies proved incredibly successful for communities ranging from Waukesha to Fall Creek. While a few benefited from federal and state funding programs, many communities simply found the value in working together - schools, libraries, hospitals, city, county, higher ed - to address their own needs directly.

We have another interesting opportunity ahead with these changes to the E-Rate program for schools and libraries. Again, most of the pieces above won’t be in place until the 2016 E-Rate cycle (not this one, the next). We’re planting the seeds for you to begin thinking ahead.