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West Texas Students Don’t Need to Wait for New Stimulus Package to Access Subsidized Rural Broadband Services

Bridging the Digital Divide

Charlotte, NC February 24, 2009– Conterra Telecom Services (Conterra) has announced the commencement of high-speed wireless wide area network service to 44 member school districts and colleges of the West Texas Telecommunications Consortium (WTTC) located in the Texas Region 14 Education Service Center (ESC). The 100 Mbps Ethernet based microwave radio network connects member districts and colleges to the main WTTC office located in Abilene. A five year contract was awarded to Conterra through the federal E-Rate program which covers a large portion of the consortium member’s costs.

Conterra’s intelligent broadband networks support the convergence of integrated data, video and voice services on a single circuit that minimizes the number of service providers and provides for a single source of accountability. The Conterra network is now providing Internet access to over 15,000 WTTC endpoints, Internet video conferencing and distance learning service to more than 200 locations and Voice over IP service to members. Conterra monitors, manages and supports the WTTC network on a 24X7X365 basis and guarantees network performance and reliability.

“Conterra has provided the educational community of west central Texas with the most reliable and cost effective voice, video, and data transport infrastructure we could possibly have acquired in this rural part of our state,”

said Mr. Simoneau the Wide Area Network Director for WTTC, in a statement given this week.

“Their solution was the best solution that met the needs of all of the member districts of our consortium and has been a wonderful addition to the strategic plan of the West Texas Telecommunications Consortium. The network has been reliable from day one, the service and support has been prompt and efficient, and the people from Conterra I have worked with have been most helpful since the project began. The WTTC and its members are extremely pleased that the decision was made to partner with Conterra Ultra Broadband in this endeavor.”

The Region 14 ESC wide area network is the first of three major E-Rate telecommunications projects for Conterra in Texas. Conterra is currently deploying Wide Area Networks for the Region 10 and Region 15 ESCs, which will bring high-quality; high-speed Ethernet based broadband and Internet services to 125 Texas school districts at performance levels comparable to those enjoyed by schools in the state’s largest metropolitan areas.

“It is extremely gratifying to be able to utilize our many years of technology and telecommunications experience to deliver services to students and teachers in parts of Texas that might otherwise be unable to access the growing number of ‘distance learning’ opportunities available through the Internet, noted Conterra’s President , Dennis Francis. “This is a great example of the federal E-rate funding program achieving its intended result of making sure locations and economics do not stand in the way of equal education opportunities for all American school children,” added Mr. Francis.

About Conterra Telecom Services
Conterra Telecom Services, headquartered in Charlotte, NC, is a national provider of facilities-based broadband services for schools, wireless carriers and select enterprises that require bandwidth intensive, carrier-grade data, video and voice transport services primarily in outer suburban and rural markets. Conterra and its subsidiaries currently provide these services to over 1,000 K-12 schools and colleges throughout the United States, affording broadband services to hundreds of thousands of students, teachers and administrators.

Privately owned, Conterra was established by the founders and members of management of Vanguard Cellular Systems, Inc., which became one of the first and largest independent cellular companies in the United States. Started in 1982, Vanguard designed, built and operated its own point-to-point microwave transport systems to support wireless voice and data traffic within its mostly rural cellular networks throughout the country which are now part of AT&T Mobility. For more information about Conterra, visit www.conterra.com or call: 800-634-1374.

Conterra, WTTC/Region 14 ESC Partner to Provide Telecom Network for Students

Three years ago, the wide area telecom network serving schools in West Texas Telecommunications Consortium/ESC-14 consisted of mostly slow and unreliable T-1 connections. Technical Director Steve Simoneau and the WTTC decided to request proposals in 2006 to upgrade their aging wide area network (WAN). Despite the challenging distances and bandwidth requirements between participating district offices, they got both the response and the price they were looking for.

In 2008, more than 40 school district offices in ESC-14 were connected to a new 100 Mbps per location, microwave radio-based WAN. Now the students in these linked locations can enjoy fiber optic speed Internet, distance learning, video field trips and Voice-over-IP communications in their classrooms. All of this new service capability is largely funded through the federal E-rate program.

Conterra Ultra Broadband, an eligible service provider for Priority 1 E-rate services, submitted the winning bid to provide the WAN service upgrade for the WTTC. Conterra is based in Charlotte, N.C., with an office outside of Dallas, and is the largest provider of licensed microwave radio-based WAN services to schools in the United States. Conterra is also deploying a similar WAN for the Region 10 ESC. Simoneau had this to say about the project: “There is always hesitation and doubt when beginning a new project with this scope and complexity. Questions arise as to whether or not you have made the right decision. After dealing with Conterra for the past three years and working closely with them for the seven months of this project, I can confidently say that the WTTC made the right decision in choosing Conterra Ultra Broadband to help build our new wireless WAN.”

Bedford schools cleared for faster Internet

Published: January 26, 2009
By JUSTIN FAULCONER
BEDFORD — Three Bedford County elementary schools were cleared Monday to each receive Broadband Internet service through wireless communication facilities on each campus.

After holding separate public hearings, the Bedford County Board of Supervisors approved special-use permits for Conterra Ultra Broadband, a North Carolina-based firm working with the county’s public school division to install the facilities. The permits allow the firm to place a 111-foot-tall tower at Boonsboro Elementary School, an 80-foot-tall tower at Huddleston Elementary School and a 76-foot-tall tower at Body Camp Elementary School. The overall goal is to connect the entire school division under the same network, said Jonathan Yates, a representative of the firm.

“What we’re trying to do is get the students of Bedford County equivalent with the rest of the country (in terms of Internet service),” Yates told supervisors.

The county has an 80-foot height requirement for towers but made an exception in the case of Boonsboro Elementary School. Yates stated in the firm’s application the height was necessary to reach the needed signal. Conterra has networks in 16 states and serves eight Virginia counties, Yates said. The firm has nearly 100 networks in place, he said. Edward Hoisington, the school divison’s director of technology and media, said the towers would improve the three schools’ Internet speed from 1.5 megabytes per second to 100 per second. Hoisington said they also allow the schools
to keep pace with others in the area of online testing.

The schools’ initiative comes at a time when county officials are also exploring options to expand broadband service. Currently the county is in an “information-gathering stage,” said Assistant County Administrator Frank Rogers. The area’s topography and landscape presents challenges in extending service.

“There’s a large area of the county that is without sufficient high-speed Internet connectivity to meet a lot of the demands of citizens and the growing needs of business,”

said Rogers. However, since some of the coverage area is not densely populated, he said, capital infrastructure costs would be harder for the county to recoup. “We’re trying to devise a way to facilitate the provision of service in that environment.” Broadband has tremendous potential to enable “good sound business growth,” which is why he said the county economic development authority is taking part in the research. The authority recently formed a subcommittee to review the county’s options and likely give the authority recommendations on what options to pursue. An alternative, Rogers said, is consideration of the formation of a wireless broadband authority.

Several counties like King George and Pulaski have such authorities, which may be eligible for tobacco commission grants and other grant money. The county, in response to a proposed federal economic stimulus package that is still under debate, also recently submitted an $8 million project estimate called the “Last Mile Broadband Initiative” to the state. John Sharp, the board’s chairman, said he spoke recently with Rep. Tom Perriello, D-5th District, about the stimulus package and came away with the understanding that it will address rural broadband initiatives.
“Hopefully we’ll see something from that,” Sharp said.

In other business: The board approved, with Supervisor Dale Wheeler absent, a change within its payment method for appointed members of boards and commissions. Under the new policy, any serving member of the county’s handful of appointed bodies would get issued W-2 tax forms and be considered employees rather than receiving 1099 forms that recognize them as independent contractors. The method also pays those serving a fixed monthly income rather than receiving reimbursement based on meeting attendance. County Administrator Kathleen Guzi said the boards have 90 percent attendance or higher and do work aside from attending meetings. Appointed officials will now have taxes taken from their pay under the new policy, which is why Guzi recommended the monthly reimbursement. “This would help to offset the decrease in payments due to taxes,” she said in a county memo. The IRS advised the change.