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Grants for Metronet available to schools

Posted: Thursday, January 1, 2015 6:00 am

St. Joe Valley Metronet, in partnership with nCloud, has a new K-12 “Fiber to Schools” grants initiative. 

Trinity School at Greenlawn in South Bend is the first school to be connected via the grant to the high-speed, high-capacity broadband service. And more are apparently interested in taking advantage of the opportunity.

The grants were created earlier this year to encourage schools in St. Joseph County to “develop innovative educational opportunities” and to remove broadband-capacity constraints that may hinder such opportunities, a news release from St. Joe Valley Metronet says.

The grants, which schools must apply for and provide specific plans on how they’d use the service, pay for installing underground conduit and fiber-optic cable to connect the school building to Metronet’s existing dark fiber network. They also cover Metronet service for three years.

After that time period, a spokesman for Metronet said, there is no continuing contractual obligation. 

The initial funding of $100,000 will support multiple recipients in the program’s first year, the release says. And Metronet officials say they’re committed to contributing similar funding in subsequent years.

About 35 public and private schools in St. Joseph County are within economically feasible reach of the existing Metronet network.

South Bend Community School Corp. spokeswoman Sue Coney said last week that the district plans to apply for a grant for several yet-to-be-named schools. 

Adams High School took advantage of a similar opportunity to be connected to Metronet in 2013. After the initial one-year period in which fees were waived, however, the school board chose to put the school back on the same service as the other high schools in the district.

About the same time Adams was connected to Metronet, the district’s central office, Coney said, also got on it. That service, which the district pays for, continues, she said.

”Metronet is a good community partner,” Coney said. 

A public-private partnership, Metronet was created to supply dark fiber infrastructure that would support economic development in an area where opportunities were hampered by the high cost and limited availability of broadband service, according to the release from Metronet.

Businesses, universities, medical providers and governmental offices all had experienced how limited connectivity impacted their ability to do business, let alone expand, innovate and grow. Schools, a Metronet official says in a news release, face the same needs.