The city of Pittsburg and Pittsburg Community Schools worked together to create DragonNet, a high-speed broadband network, and get it into the homes of students so they can access online lessons, streaming video and other data-rich programming.
Funded by money from the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) taskforce, the solution supports potential remote and hybrid learning models amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but also sets students up for long-term success, since so much learning happens outside the classroom, even under normal circumstances.
“The pandemic has shown a light on the growing digital divide in our country, but it certainly didn’t create the problem,” said Dr. Brad Hanson, assistant superintendent, Pittsburg School District. “We’ve long been aware of the inequalities created by a lack of consistent at-home internet access across our student body, which is essential for day-to-day learning, as well as the completion of research projects and papers that may be assigned as homework. DragonNet is creating a level playing field to ensure every one of our students has access to the resources they need to succeed.”
DragonNet is made possible because of Motorola Solutions’ Nitro™ private LTE solution, which runs on Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum. Nitro is predictable, secure and easy to deploy without complex infrastructure. The antennas have been placed in public spaces, and schools are connected directly into the district’s network via the city’s existing fiber optic cables. The school district owns and manages the end-user devices, such as Chromebooks, modems and routers, that have been given to students to install in their homes. The school is able to control who accesses the network and the content that students consume through existing firewalls and content-filtering tools.
“We’re proud to be among the first cities in the country to deploy a private LTE network like this,” said Jay Byers, deputy city manager, city of Pittsburg. “We chose this particular network from Motorola Solutions because it doesn’t require complex infrastructure and allows us to take advantage of our existing investment in fiber. The fact that we own the network means all of the data is secure. The network has made an immediate difference to our students and we look forward to extending the benefits to others in the community in the future.”
The deployment of the network was completed in 40 days with the help of local contractors CDL Electric and Radell Construction. Beyond distance learning, the city sees other potential applications for the Nitro private broadband solution within the community, as they look to expand the use of technology to address public safety and service challenges.