CTA IN THE NEWS: 16,000 students have reliable Internet service in Montana thanks to this solution

By: Travis Estvold
9 June 2016

From k-12techdecisions.com:

Billings is the largest city in the state of Montana and continues to experience growth thanks to a diverse economy. Billings Public Schools serve approximately 16,000 students and manage one of the largest computer networks in the state. The school district needed a network solution that could handle the amount of users on the network.

The Billings Public Schools technology department was tasked with upgrading the existing network infrastructure throughout the district’s 22 elementary school sites. Outlined in the district’s five-year plan is the Billings Public Schools Technology Plan, which includes mandates for:

  • Providing teachers with current technologies, training and support.
  • Creating opportunities for students to become active participants in their own learning.
  • Using technology as a tool to improve the education of their students to prepare them to become future leaders in the global community.

“A bond was passed that included an allocation for technology upgrades,” says Larry Bybee, Network Manager, Billings Public Schools. “We wanted to rewire our elementary schools because they were running on old, failing copper wire.” Bybee initially set out to implement the large-scale project using a traditional infrastructure based on copper wiring, but soon realized the bond wouldn’t cover the costs.

“As we started to research the project, we realized we couldn’t upgrade all of the schools because the cost to rewire them all was too great,” Bybee says. “Then our technology consultant, Kris Good of CTA Architects Engineers, suggested we check out GPON.” GPON, or Gigabit Passive Optical Network, is a cost-effective, high-performance, fiber-based solution that has several advantages over traditional copper-based implementations.

Through his extensive research, Bybee learned that by deploying a GPON LAN, Billings Public Schools could expect to benefit from significant cost savings, reduced square footage required to implement a large-scale system, and rapid speed of implementation when compared to a similar copper-based solution.


“What GPON is really about is bringing the most robust network to a client while at the same time capturing all additional cost savings. After CTA provided Billings School District with GPON as an alternative to a traditional copper network, they decided it was worth investigating further. They asked for and received from the manufacturer a working demo system and placed a network simulation program on it to run it through its paces. The system performed perfectly and the next step was to place it in a school and let it operate fully in the real world. It ran flawlessly for a year.

The District then decided to move forward with full deployment of it across the network and the next projects were then-under-remodel Broadwater and McKinley Elementaries. In these cases, the true value of GPON started to show. The design CTA provided saved the school district $140,000 over the cost of a copper network that had been planned. Additionally, we were able to capture another $6,000 in savings by removing the HVAC system for the data closet!”

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