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WATCH: 'That is a lot of internet': ASMSA taps into high-speed network – Hot Springs Sentinel

The Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts recently joined the Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network, which increased the school’s internet bandwidth on campus by tenfold.
By joining ARE-On — a not-for-profit consortium consisting of all of Arkansas’ two- and four-year higher education institutions, as well as several select organizations such as Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the National Center for Toxicological Research, Arkansas PBS, and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute — ASMSA is provided access to a 10-gigabit Ethernet connection.
The faster download speeds and larger bandwidth permissions will allow students to access greater amounts of information in a shorter period of time.
“For the last few years we certainly have, as a part of higher education in Arkansas, expressed our interest in joining ARE-ON but some of the infrastructure in the area hasn’t quite been available so that we could plug into the network itself,” ASMSA Director Corey Alderdice said.

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“A private internet service provider who has entered the space here in Hot Springs was interested in swapping fiber access with ARE-ON that would be mutually beneficial and that swap actually put us within striking range of being able to connect to one of the nodes, actually, that’s out at National Park College,” he said.
“So as that picture began to come together we were thrilled to have the chance to work with both teams, with the private provider and ARE-ON, to close that gap and get the campus officially on the network.”
ARE-ON provides a high-speed fiber-optic network to members and other affiliates throughout the state, including regional optical networks and commercial service providers. Alderdice said upgrading to the network helps the school provide the best learning and residential experience it can for its students.
He said he believes the biggest benefit is that it ensures students who inherently live digital lifestyles are able to do so without interruption. It gives them better access to the resources, not only for learning, but for leisure, that allows them to stay connected and get as much as they can out of the ASMSA experience.
ARE-ON Executive Director Elon Turner said in a news release that ASMSA was a natural fit.
“It was important to us, as peers within the University of Arkansas System, that the students, faculty and staff of ASMSA could benefit from the resources available through an ARE-ON connection,” Turner said.
Over the past decade, the school has moved from 28 Mbps in 2012, which offered speeds too low for streaming, to 1 gigabit in 2019. ARE-ON engineers and ASMSA Information Technology staff coordinated the transition last month, giving students upgraded benefits, including access to “top-tier cloud services and connections to individual peers in addition to the increased internet speed.”
Alderdice said 10-gigabit service is a pretty big leap forward.
“There are a few residential spaces in the state that have that kind of access,” he said. “Even it’s pretty limited when you think about businesses that kind of have a lot of access. I mean, that is a lot of internet, for the lack of a better phrase. In the immediate term, we won’t see quite the full benefit of 10-gig access but it means some of our infrastructure right now that caps out at a gig, 1 gigabit of service, you can really get the full access to that.”
The benefits, he said, will come in two phases.
“First, that there is more capacity to share among the 230 students, the dozen staff members that live in the student center, let alone the other employees who utilize the network,” he said. “So you’re competing much less for a small, you know, pool of resources on it. In short, it means that there’s more to go around for everybody.
“In some of our testing this week, honestly, the biggest limitation is individual hardware. Some wireless connections on devices, the hardware itself, caps out at maybe 300, 400 megabits per second, which is still lightning fast internet,” he said.
“About the only groups that can fully, fully use every bit of that kind of internet are if you’re doing a lot of large data upload or download And so for most use cases, classroom needs, streaming, entertainment, even gaming after hours for students, or our esports teams, they have both the quantity of internet to have a quality connection, and then a really reliable connection that means you don’t drop service or run into bumps along the way,” Alderdice said.
The upgrade helps ensure the capacity the school has as a campus is also future-proof, he said.
“As we continue to update facilities and some of the back-end network on campus, we’ll be making upgrades that allow us to take full advantage of that,” he said. “You know, probably the only constant beyond death and taxes is the need for better and more reliable internet connections over time.”
One of the things ASMSA realized early on in working with its Information Technology team was the value of the service in regard to distance education and general communication. Alderdice noted that ASMSA acts as the students’ home.
“This is where they live and, in turn, we want to ensure, and we should ensure, that they are able to reasonably use the internet and have access to the services that they would at home for information, entertainment, and ultimately also to be able to connect back with their family,” he said.
“I think things like that over time have actually in some ways made it easier for students and families to take advantages of the opportunity at ASMSA. The days of having to, you know, get a prepaid phone card and fight over a phone booth to be able to have a 15-minute call at home are long, long past now. And so to be able to take the phone or the tablet or the laptop in front of you and to have a live, engaging video call with friends, family, pets even, really means that home is even closer even if physically you’re two, three or four hours away.”

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