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Barrow connects to Internet2

WINDER - After more than two years of negotiations, plus $255,000 worth of construction work and fiber optic cable, Barrow County schools are now online with Internet2.

It is the only school system in Georgia hooked into Internet2, said Ed Morrison, director of information services.

Speed and the privacy of select membership are two advantages of joining Internet2, said Eli Welch III, Westside Middle School principal.

"Internet2 is 1,000 times faster than the regular Internet," Welch said. "The state only allows us a certain amount of bandwidth with regular Internet."

Internet2 allows the district to use five times the state-allocated bandwidth, Morrison said.

The one-cent sales tax paid for the installation of the fiber network of ultra high-speed cables that connects all schools to a common communications network.

Internet2, or the University Corporation for Advanced Internet Development, is a nonprofit consortium created in 1996 that develops advanced network applications.

Georgia Institute of Technology, the University of Georgia, Georgia State, Harvard, Yale and Princeton Universities are just a few of the members listed. A long list of corporate members include Comcast, Intel, Sun Microsystems, Qwest Communications, Ford Motor Company, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco and Prous Science.

The school district went online with Internet2 last summer, and debuted it in a January ceremony at Westside Middle School in Winder. Some of the organizations students have partnered with for lessons include UGA, Georgia Tech, The Center for Puppetry Arts and NASA.

In preparation for the debut, WMS students partnered with a middle school in Manitoba, Canada, in an interactive study project through video conferencing.

In a partnership with UGA, professors answered students' questions about how human DNA interacts with other organisms, said Welch.

Future teachers at neighboring colleges will be able to watch WMS teachers and learn about their educational methods.

"We have the opportunity now to take a virtual field trip virtually anywhere, now that we are connected with Internet2," Welch said. "We will use it every day."

Barrow County is in a prime location to tap into Internet2. About one mile of pipeline and cable hooked the district into a cable that ran from UGA to Georgia Tech, Welch said.

"We want to see all the K-12s connected to Peachnet (on Internet2)," said Morrison.

The hookup required no new equipment, Morrison said. The school system continues to use the regular Internet and spends about $50,000 per year for filters and annual service fees to clean up both internets before sending them to schools. The school system pays about $80,000 annually for Internet service, Morrison said. It does not pay a fee for Internet2 membership because of its partnerships with UGA, Georgia Tech and Georgia State Universities.

"For example, we are participating in a research study with Georgia State looking into why more than 40 percent of new teachers leave the field in their first three years," said Ron Saunders, Superintendent of Barrow County Schools.