Ala. schools get computer upgrades

PELL CITY, AL – School systems across the state are getting much faster computer connection speeds at no cost to the schools, Governor Bob Riley and other officials announced Friday while visiting Pell City High School.

"These faster speeds are critical for connecting students to online learning opportunities, video conferencing and multi-media education resources.  Our teachers are incorporating technology more and more into their lessons and downloading educational resources from around the world to help their students learn.  By integrating technology resources throughout the classroom, we are improving the quality of learning and instruction provided to Alabama's students," said Governor Riley.

The Alabama Supercomputer Authority is monitoring each school system's Internet usage. As systems begin to max out their available bandwidth, the Supercomputer Authority is upgrading their connectivity to faster speeds.  So far, 34 school systems have received the upgrades without cost to the systems and three more school systems are scheduled to receive the faster connection speeds soon.

The 34 systems have been upgraded to a 50 Mbps ("mega-bit") connection, which is five times the bandwidth they previously had.  The base cost for a 50 Mbps connection is approximately $36,000 per year for a school system.  By providing this service for free to schools, Governor Riley said the Supercomputer Authority is providing faster connection speeds and maintenance services at a much-needed cost savings.

"As local school superintendents know, technology isn't cheap.  This support from the Supercomputer Authority is absolutely critical so schools can continue the progress they've made," said Governor Riley.  "This new, faster connection speed is providing schools with enhanced access to information.  These faster speeds also provide students taking ACCESS Distance Learning courses with a more seamless classroom experience."

Governor Riley toured Pell City High School with State School Superintendent Dr. Joseph Morton, Alabama Supercomputer Authority CEO Randy Fulmer, and Dr. Melinda Maddox, the state Department of Education's Director of Technology Initiatives.

They visited an ACCESS Distance Learning class and the school's "Credit Recovery Lab" where students can re-take courses they did not complete.

ACCESS (Alabama Connecting Classrooms, Educators and Students Statewide) uses online and interactive video conferencing technology to link classrooms and offer coursework to students in schools where those courses may not be available.  ACCESS allows students from any part of the state to learn in a virtual classroom setting.

Alabama last year became the first state in the country to have both video conferencing and web-based distance learning capabilities in all its high schools.

The Pell City school system received the computer connection upgrade from the Supercomputer Authority in January.

Information Source: Governor Bob Riley's office