White Pine County, Nevada, is what Business Continuity Technologies CEO Lester Keizer said is one of the most remote and rural counties in the country. In fact, he said it’s “one of the last frontiers” in the U.S.
For the Las Vegas-based solution provider, that became a huge challenge a year and a half ago when the local middle and high schools wanted to pilot a program for 300 Chromebooks to prepare students in the poorer and rural community for better jobs, said Tiffany Kelly, Business Continuity Technologies‘ vice president of Google Services, who led the project.
However, the project quickly hit a roadblock as the connectivity needed for Chromebooks simply wasn’t available or ready for the deployment.
“They were ready; everyone was on board,” she said. “But we can’t physically do it because we don’t have the bandwidth to bring to the kids.”
Kelly said that the solution provider fixed and opened up what it needed to get the 300 Chromebooks into the schools. CEO Keizer said that the solution provider got creative and helped extend bandwidth with radio dishes and other equipment around town and on roofs of local businesses as well as servers in school districts. The county works mostly off a granted-use pipeline from a local college, where it is able to get the bandwidth it needs for Chromebooks and other operations. However, the school “cannot go further,” said Kelly.
“I cannot do it because I’m restricted by bandwidth,” she said. “I could take them on a virtual tour of the Eiffel Tower and open up the world to them, but I can’t.”
The White Pine County school district isn’t alone, Kelly said. Business Continuity Technologies already has two more contracts for Chromebook deployments at other schools, where she said “it is the same” problem.
IDC Senior Research Analyst Rajani Singh said Chromebooks are picking up steam in the U.S., especially in education. However, she said connectivity is the massive roadblock to them going forward.
“Connectivity is certainly a big issue in Chromebooks,” Singh said. “In fact, it is the only factor that is stopping Chromebooks from getting mass adoption.”
That being said, Singh said she doesn’t see U.S. connectivity as big a barrier as it is in countries abroad, which have seen significantly less Chromebook adoption.
However, while it is a challenge, Keizer said that it is 100 percent worth it to be involved. Citing statistics that put Nevada squarely at the bottom of the list of 50 states for education systems and test scores, he said there is a larger mission here among the technology deployments to make a difference in children’s lives through education.
“If I, as a small reseller, have a mission that I’m going to try and improve one classroom, one small school, one small district in Nevada at a time, I’m doing something so fulfilling. Not just for myself, but for my engineers, for Tiffany. We’ve become more than just a technology company. I’m going to make a difference,” Keizer said. “We’ve got a responsibility not just to sell and push hardware. We’re really making a difference and changing lives. That’s why I’m in rural Nevada trying to put bandwidth in.”
Since the White Pine County schools rolled out the Chromebooks, Kelly said the school district already has seen massive improvements. One example, she said, is homework assignments, where journal turn-in rates jumped from 60 percent to 90 percent.
“I’ve been in a lot of very exciting jobs in Silicon Valley and in technology,” she said. “This is the best thing I feel that I’ve ever done in my life. The fact that I can go into a classroom and make a difference; we have real numbers coming out of this.”
This article originally appeared as an exclusive on the CRN Tech News App for iOS and Windows 8.