Case Study | How high-speed, high-capacity technology drives a dynamic learning environment for Helena school students while positioning them for success in a competitive world.

OVERVIEW

In 2018, Vision Net identified both Helena and Billings as underserved Montana metropolitan areas with a growing need for reliable, high-speed connectivity. Both communities were experiencing increasing demand from consumers, businesses and organizations seeking a dependable solution. To address this, Vision Net committed to funding a combined 70 miles of fiber optic network across both communities, with 23 miles dedicated to Helena.

In 2019, Helena Public Schools was among the first to tap the new broadband fiber. Given the COVID-19 pandemic and the shift to remote learning, the move seems particularly prescient.

CHALLENGE

The city of Helena and many of its metro-area businesses had experienced severe Internet outages in recent years. For businesses, downtime translates into loss of revenue. For schools, a lack of connectivity is equally problematic. Teachers can’t deliver the rich and multifaceted educational content upon which their lesson plans are built and students can’t access the same learning opportunities as their nationwide counterparts.

The Helena solution also came packaged with Vision View, Vision Net’s next-generation customer facing portal, to simplify the performance metrics display at each location and provide a convenient way for the district’s IT team to interact with Vision Net’s network operations center. This additional level of confidence ensures a seamless online learning experience.

Another “value add” of working with Vision Net was the opportunity to partner with a local Montana business, something that Boles says translates into a highly responsive approach

“With Vision Net, we get all the bells and whistles of a larger, global provider, but delivered, managed and operated in our own backyard. This really resonated with us,” he said. “The local relationship means things move more quickly.”

The task of finding a solution fell to Helena Public Schools Technology Administrator Pat Boles. After meeting with the Vision Net team and learning more about its connectivity solutions, Boles decided to tap Vision Net for new fiber to provide a fast, dependable district-wide Internet experience. “Vision Net’s offering checked all the boxes for us,” Boles said.

SOLUTION | LEVERAGE VISION NET’S NEW FIBER SOLUTION
The Vision Net design incorporates a multi-ring topography to ensure the highest level of resiliency possible. Additionally, the company’s 24/7/365 Network Operations Center (NOC) offers continuous support and addresses questions or concerns immediately. Often, Vision Net detects problems long before the school district is even aware of them.

The world is growing evermore connected and digitally-powered. According to Education Superhighway, more than 44.7 million students nationwide have access to high-speed Internet. It’s critical that students in rural states have the opportunity to compete.

To address the learning gap and ensure students are prepared for success in college and for employment in a global workplace, the Helena School Board of Trustees set a goal to implement technology to enrich student learning and deliver more efficient administrative services.

In other words, the district was charged with investing in a high-speed Internet solution that could be counted on for its reliability and service. Adding to the challenge was a compressed six-month timeline requiring 19 different school district sites to be successfully connected to one another and to the new fiber.

The task of finding a solution fell to Helena Public Schools Technology Administrator Pat Boles. After meeting with the Vision Net team and learning more about its connectivity solutions, Boles decided to tap Vision Net for new fiber to provide a fast, dependable district-wide Internet experience. “Vision Net’s offering checked all the boxes for us,” Boles said.

OUTCOMES

The Helena Public Schools District has been operating with Vision Net’s new fiber for nearly a year now. Boles said it’s been a seamless experience — a good thing, he adds, as the pandemic has ushered in a new era of learning. them.

“Under COVID-19, we’ve seen schools, educators and students become far more reliant on digital resources to drive the learning experience,” he said. “And while we don’t know exactly what school will look like moving forward, I suspect there’s no going back. Digital platforms and the connectivity needed to support them will continue to expand and play an ever-greater role in learning. I think we’re going to see a new model of education moving forward and one that is heavily reliant on technology.”

Learn more about Vision Net’s fiber investment in Billings and Helena.

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