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The ring

Submitted by on 1, January 14, 2009 – 8:30 amNo Comment

The Alameda Unified School District’s computer network is like a big, fat superhighway – one that’s so jammed to the gills that none of the traffic is really moving. That’s the rundown that the district’s technology director, Jess Stephens, gave to the school board Tuesday night. And it’s a problem Stephens hopes the board will be willing to pay to fix in spite of the state budget doom and gloom.

“We’re making a 10-year leap at once,” Stephens said in a brief interview outside chambers Tuesday.

The district’s network contains equipment from 11 different companies, and some of that equipment is more than a decade old, Stephens told the board. E-mails traverse a network ring that includes every school site and the district office. Internet queries stop at the Alameda County Office of Education too. Stephens said he’s got twice the Internet upload speed at home.

The problems can bring the district’s computers to a grinding halt, like when staff tried to use its computers during the recent Presidential election to view news updates and commentaries. The additional traffic pushed the district’s network and nearly all of its computers into a massive slowdown, according to a written staff memo on Tuesday’s presentation. (As an alternative, Stephens said he’s been explaining to teachers how to attach a length of wire to their TV sets so their kids can see the inaugural Tuesday morning.)

The district is also set to lose the free Internet that Alameda Power & Telecom has been providing through a court settlement over electric rates (and Stephens told the board, in case you were wondering, that AP&T still owns the wires that its online stuff travels on). That agreement ends in May 2010.

Stephens hopes the board will okay a replacement of the district’s backbone equipment and network, which will cost an estimated $100,000 to $150,000 a year after discounts and federal funds kick in plus between $25,000 and $50,000 of additional, one-time work. Bids are out, and Stephens said he is talking to AP&T about what they’d charge to stay on the district’s existing network.

The board is slated to vote on a contract for new network services at its February 27 meeting.

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