Video-based distance learning is becoming an essential part of daily classroom life in grammar schools and high schools. When Edgenics, an e-learning company, put the plans in place to build out a national network to support video services network, it found that the best fit was New Edge Networks and its MPLS Class of Service (CoS) over DSL access service.
Robert Dansby, Chairman and CEO, Edgenics
Telecommunications Editor in Chief Sean Buckley recently sat down with Robert Dansby, chairman and CEO of Edgenics to talk about the new network deployment and the company’s partnership with New Edge Networks.
Telecommunications: There are a lot of telecom providers out there, so as a video solutions provider for schools and other entities, what made you decide to go with New Edge Networks?
Dansby: Of course, we looked at some of the major telecom providers. We were very interested in being able to deploy an MPLS network that would support Quality of Service (QoS) which we was saw as crucial for the video-based services for the schools both in terms of delivering instructional on a narrowcast as well as supporting interactive video content for distance learning between teachers at one location and students at another location. We did go through an extensive process to qualify and engage with the carriers, and the thing that set NewEdge apart was their MPLS over DSL offering that allows us to provide QoS delivery of video on an end-to-end basis.
Telecommunications:What’s the value of this service and how is it going so far?
Dansby: We’re just getting into the implementation. We signed the agreement with New Edge in late May, and we’re now in the process of going through the engineering and planning for a pilot rollout scheduled to be launched in September.
Telecommunications: Did you have a legacy technology like FR or ATM in place that you needed to migrate from?
Dansby: No. This is a new build.
Telecommunications: We talk to a lot of providers addressing the school district’s need for bandwidth intensive applications. Can you talk about the changing and emerging demands of the education market?
Dansby: From the point of view of providing distance learning services, many of the school district networks have challenges with respect to their ability to support that level of service or provide the bandwidth necessary for the interactive services without negatively impacting uses of the systems they have in place. That’s one of the major reasons that we decided that we needed to provide the network solution to the school districts as part of our service platform implementation and not to rely on whatever flavor of the network they happen to have.
Telecommunications: With this new network rollout, the plan will be carried out through five phases. Can you describe that process and what it entails?
Dansby: We applied for federal funding to help support the implementation of these services on a national basis. The first phase was funded with a focus to implement the services in the Mid-South Delta as they refer to it (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and part of East Texas). Then we will continue to deploy the services with a list of schools that have indicated interest in participating in the Mid-South Delta over the remainder of 2008. Going into 2009, we will begin the second phase of the implementation. Over a four to five year period, we will provide the services across the country.
Telecommunications: Who are your main customers and what kinds of video applications do you support?
Dansby: The primary focus at this point is to provide leading-edge distance learning or near face-to-face e-learning services to schools. We are focused on launching two academic programs. One is a digital journalism program and the second is a sports academy program.
The digital journalism provides schools with new media curricula that is the next generation of newspaper journalism courses that have been provided on an elective basis by schools. Some of that got [eliminated] as part of the cutbacks in arts and that kind of curriculum at some schools. Many of the schools that we talked to as we had focus groups to determine where we should focus our academic efforts indicated an interest in reviving newspaper journalism cirriculum. We looked into that by talking to leading schools of journalism who said that would be an interesting academic resource to provide, but it would be interesting to provide an updated version of that that reflects what’s going in the media industry at large. In fact, some of the university professors we leaned on for advice are associated with university journalism schools that had recently implemented what they refer to as convergent journalism undergraduate programs. We’re just taking that to the high school level.
Telecommunications: DSL, as we typically know it, has always been a best-effort data service. How will New Edge’s DSL with Class of Service (CoS) come in handy for you to deliver video?
Dansby: We’re just beginning to do the testing. It’s been going well, especially working with the people at New Edge and their appreciation of value for helping to improve educational outcomes.