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HIDALGO - Region One Education Service Center (ESC) is implementing a technology project called, ORION that will benefit E-Rate entities such as regional school districts, charter schools and libraries who are eligible for the internet service.

One Regional Interconnected Optical Network (ORION), is a fiber-optic network of service that provides high-speed infrastructure to improve internet bandwidth capacity over high-speed connections. Eligible members will now have access to bigger and virtual reality in the classroom, enhanced distance learning opportunities and resource sharing between school districts.

Dr. Cornelio Gonzalez, executive director of Region One ESC said the vision behind ORION is to bring all Region One school districts and charter schools together so they can collaborate in educational programs to improve the academic performance of all students.

“Access to educational services in Region One varies significantly from one community to another,” said Gonzalez. “Urban areas have access to excellent communication resources that link schools to places around the world and open opportunities to receive high-quality educational services. Rural and low socio-economic areas lack access to good internet service and advanced educational services that limits many of our students.”

ORION will work by distributing internet signals over high-speed fiber optic cabling while increasing the amount of speed available on that connection by awarded provider, SmartCom Telephone.

ORION is currently made up of 28 members from school districts, charter schools, and libraries across an eight-county area that will benefit from the fiber-optic network.

“ORION’s success is the result of the collaboration between many stakeholders, including school districts and charter school systems, libraries, E-Rate consultation firms, service providers, and the support of Region One ESCs Executive Director and Board of Trustees,” said Ali Kolahdouz, chief technology officer of Region One ESC. “The project has been guided over the planning and implementation phases by a steering committee composed of consortium members from school districts, libraries and Region One ESC staff.”

An additional benefit ORION will provide to all members is a 10GB of internet service in which most cases are costing less than their already existing service.

The implementation of ORION goes back two years ago in 2017 when the non-profit organization, Education SuperHighway was invited to Texas by Texas Education Commissioner, Mike Morath. Commissioner Morath informed ESC about Education SuperHighway that helps schools around the country to create and implement digital learning.

Region One ESC and the organization discussed how to create and implement the ORION project. From there on, the planning was in place and the Texas legislature offered financial support for the development of ORION.

“The state of Texas offered to pay the differential cost between the subsidized cost of the network and the total cost of the project; therefore, for any school districts that applied within a two-year window, the cost of the project would be zero,” Gonzalez said.

Region One ESC then submitted its application and was approved by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) and is set to officially launch in July 2020.

Kolahdouz said equipment installation to configure and test access has already begun in compliance with the school districts’ service providers.

“Region One ESC feels that ORION will provide a foundation on which our dedicated educators can build upon to meet current and future classroom needs utilizing modern technology,” Kolahdouz added.

The ORION service is a 10-year provider that will help close the “digital divide” in E-Rate schools and libraries lacking high-speed internet service and access.

Any district, charter school system, or library (e.g., E-Rate eligible entity) can join ORION by requesting to be added to the next USAC filing. New members that submit required documentation and meet deadlines will be eligible to join the consortium and have ORION service at their site in early 2021. Please contact Ali Kolahdouz at (956) 457-7531 or akolahdouz@esc1.net if you would like more information about joining ORION.

For more information on Education SuperHighway visit the following link: https://www.educationsuperhighway.org/