Qwest wins big Arizona deal

Arizona School Facilities Board

Qwest Communications was awarded a $100 million contract Feb. 1 to provide

a computer network infrastructure and Internet connectivity to Arizona public

schools.

By June 2003, the state hopes that every public school will have access

to 100 megabits/sec broadband access that can be expandable to 1 gigabit/sec.

Such access would enable school computers to support streaming video and

audio and other online resources, said Philip Geiger, executive director

of the Arizona School Facilities Board (SFB), which awarded the contract.

The state has 1,222 public elementary and secondary schools in 228 school

districts. Nearly 870,000 students may benefit.

The SFB oversees new school construction, capital improvements to schools,

repair of educational facilities and upgrading technology in schools.

Through a 1998 state-approved program called Students FIRST, which stands

for Fair and Immediate Resources for Students Today, the SFB helped school

districts purchase 45,000 computers at a cost of about $50 million last

year. That reduced the statewide ratio of students to computers to 8-to-1,

Geiger said. The SFB spent another $2.5 million to train teachers on using

computers.

Under the contract, Qwest also will provide technical training and three

years of maintenance. Cisco Systems Inc., a partner with Qwest, has agreed

to provide Cisco Academy at no cost to all state high schools, Geiger said.

The program trains high school students to become engineers.

In December, Qwest was awarded an $8 million contract from the Arizona

Government Information Technology Agency to help provide broadband access

to several dozen communities. That is part of a broader $100 million, five-year

initiative by the state to provide 87 communities with better telecommunications

services. Geiger said the two projects would especially benefit rural communities

and their schools.

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