California Educational Data Processing Association
DataBus - Vol. 38, No. 2
February-March, 1998
Wiring Schools: The Old, the New, and the Ugly

Infrastructure: Districts struggle to keep pace with demands and changing standards.

Oswaldo Galarza, A.B.C. Unified School District

The old: Analog signals, 10 MHz Ethernet, Level 3 wiring, and token ring. The new: 100 MHz Ethernet, Level 5 wire tested at 350 MHz, gigabyte Ethernet, digital signals, video servers, etc. The ugly: Developing wiring infrastructures in a three month period that will meet the needs of our schools for the next five to seven years. Like most school districts across the nation, the school districts of the South East Educational Technology Consortium (SEETC) have been struggling to develop the best possible plans to take advantage of the unique opportunity afforded us by the Telecommunications Act's Schools and Libraries Universal Service. Although ABC Unified School District had a technology plan in place, we consulted with a number of engineers, held a technology open forum hosted by SEETC, and talked to a number of CEDPA Directors. The results, consistent with our technology plan are the following: All classrooms should be wired for voice, video (coax) and data. Four (4) data drops, two (2) voice drops, and a coaxial (CATC/CCTV) drop.

DATA: Our approach to data is to wire multi-mode fiber (6-strand minimum) to every building depending on the number of users. Although only one pair is needed for data, the additional pairs can be utilized in near-future technologies (CATV, voice, data, etc.) We plan to wire category 5 tested at 350 MHz using TIA/EIA-568A standards (a number of installation have been wired with CAT 5 using TIA/EIA-568B which is not ready for Ethernet 100 MHz) to every classroom. Some buildings can be wired with copper rather than fiber, but the possibility of expanding the number of computers in each classroom from 4 to 20 or 30 is real. The reality of video servers and other applications that require large bandwidth necessitates that we build a strong backbone.

VOICE: As most of you already know, most classrooms do not have a basic phone, so we intend to wire every classroom with two voice drops, one of which will be activated upon upgrading our PBX/Key system. Again we intend to utilize Cat 5 wiring with RJ45 jacks, from the IDF to the classroom. The feeder cable from the MDFs to the IDFs will be CAT 3 due to distance limitations in some areas.

VIDEO: Although video is being developed through the Internet we wanted to support a coaxial wiring network that will provide every classroom with the ability to access TV, Satellite, CATV or CCTV. By requiring signal levels that will permit our schools to do both (CATV/CCTV), we ensure that feeder cables will provide appropriate signals to each building and can handle the variety of signals (up to 750 MHz) used by the multiple cable companies that cover our school system. Some of our schools have TV studios and can broadcast from their schools; thus they can reach other classrooms or other schools assuming we can reach an agreement with our multiple cable companies.

Our technology plan is fluid; E-rate will not be a reality until the first school district is funded. Technology will move forward regardless. We can only attempt to see our own possible use of technology for the next five to seven years. We can only afford to do this once, even if we are lucky enough to have E-rate funds to help support these efforts.

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