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Imperial County Considers Supporting ICOE for Borderlink Expansion

-Editorial

The Imperial County Board of Supervisors reviewed and discussed the next phase of the Borderlink project at their regular meeting on Nov. 10. 

Dr. Todd Finnell, Imperial County Office of Education Superintendent made a presentation regarding this project to the Board of Supervisors. The board gave direction to the CEO’s office to assess the availability of funding from the Coronavirus Relief Fund or other available sources. 

Recognizing the need to bridge the Homework Gap to allow students to reach their full academic potential, the Imperial County Office of Education has launched an infrastructure initiative that will help ensure equal access to internet services throughout our county. To get started, ICOE has teamed up with local school districts to bring wireless internet connectivity to students in the communities of Brawley, Calexico, Calipatria, El Centro, Heber, Holtville, Imperial, Niland, Seeley and Westmorland.

The private education wireless network infrastructure that BorderLink is deploying complements the existing fiber-optic infrastructure throughout Imperial County that connects our schools and public agencies to each other and the internet. Students, teachers, and others will be provided devices to ensure this high-speed connectivity is with them as they leave school grounds. Whether at home or elsewhere in the community, students will no longer worry about having the access they need to further their education, engage with other students or teachers, or access their digital curriculum or other resources.

Now, ICOE wants to take the project to the next level. 

Imperial County Office of Education serves as the Network Administrator for the Imperial Valley Telecommunications Authority. The IVTA is a public joint powers authority that provides telecommunication services to schools and public agencies throughout Imperial County, to include the County of Imperial. 

As seen during the current pandemic, the needs for telecommuting, distance learning, and remote operations, in general, have created an enormous demand for internet/network services for schools and public agencies. In response, the Imperial Valley Telecommunications Authority has developed plans to upgrade the current Network Services System to meet those needs and prepare the county for the future. 

The Borderlink Project expansion will provide a carrier-class public agency wireless network infrastructure to provide additional and more robust services to a much larger footprint throughout the county. It will also allow for public organizations such as schools and local governments to benefit from the connectivity while being remote in the field with full access to much-needed resources. 

The estimated cost for this project is $4.5 million dollars and ICOE has already received commitments of $2.5 million from schools and other sources. The management and staff of ICOE have reached out to the County to request a potential partnership in this endeavor. ICOE requested from the County $2 million in funds to support the built-out and access to County-own communication towers. 

While most of the board supported the idea of supporting the expansion, County Supervisor District 4 Ryan Kelley asked if by the time the new equipment is implemented would the students be back in school. Finnell said that online schooling is going to be for the long haul. He said the pandemic has changed education and sees a hybrid of online learning and in-person attendance when the students go back to school. 

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