Pittsburg, Kan. Looks to Bridge Digital Divide for K-12 Students

The city of Pittsburg in Kansas announced that it is partnering with Pittsburg Community Schools to develop a new high-speed broadband network to close the digital divide for K-12 students.

The network, named DragonNet, will help students access online lessons, streaming video, and other data-rich programming both during the current world of distance and hybrid learning, as well as after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

“The pandemic has shown a light on the growing digital divide in our country, but it certainly didn’t create the problem,” said Dr. Brad Hanson, assistant superintendent, Pittsburg School District.

“We’ve long been aware of the inequalities created by a lack of consistent at-home internet access across our student body, which is essential for day-to-day learning, as well as the completion of research projects and papers that may be assigned as homework,” he said. “DragonNet is creating a level playing field to ensure every one of our students has access to the resources they need to succeed.”

To develop DragonNet, Pittsburg and Pittsburg Community Schools worked with Motorola Solutions to deploy its Nitro private LTE solution. The solution runs on the Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum. In a press release, Pittsburg said that antennas for the new network have been placed in public spaces, and schools are connected directly into the district’s network via the city’s existing fiber optic cables.

The press release also noted that Pittsburg Community Schools owns and manages the end-user devices, including Chromebooks, modems, and routers, that were given to students to use in their homes. Individual schools are also able to control who accesses the network and the content that students consume through existing firewalls and content-filtering tools.

“We chose this particular network from Motorola Solutions because it doesn’t require complex infrastructure and allows us to take advantage of our existing investment in fiber. The fact that we own the network means all of the data is secure,” said Jay Byers, deputy city manager, city of Pittsburg.

The city was able to get the new network up fairly quickly – deployment only took 40 days. While the city has not disclosed the total cost of the project, funding was secured from the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas taskforce.

Kate Polit
About Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs