Central Minnesota Educational Telecommunications System
CMETS is a consortium of eight Minnesota school districts connected to a shared fiber network. Members of the consortium are Osakis, Sauk Centre, Melrose, Brandon-Evansville, Alexandria, Albany, Minnewaska and Parkers Prarie.
The CMETS network—powered by fiber internet from Arvig—serves more than 13,500 students and staff. CMETS operates as one connected broadband ring, serving each district with fully redundant 10Gb speeds and 5Gb of shared bandwidth. In addition to internet, member schools share many enterprise-grade services, including video conferencing, Wi-Fi and Voice over-IP phone systems. CMETS hosts more than 800 wireless access points, over 1,500 unique phone extensions and more than 40 video-enabled rooms.
Today’s educational experience—the 21st century classroom—is digital through and through. From Smart Boards to ChromeBooks to devices in every backpack—everyone is constantly connected. From the opening bell to the close of the school day, the internet simply has to work. But for everything to work well, a network has to be built well.
With great networks come great responsibilities. When Arvig became the internet service provider for the Central Minnesota Educational Telecommunications System in 2015, there would be no settling for “good enough.” Delivering service to these schools would be based on consistency, quality and progress.
Under Arvig’s leadership, the CMETS network has undergone several major improvement projects directed at improving service quality, enhancing reliability and enhancing the user experience.
Summer 2018: Improving Infrastructure
In 2018, Alexandria Area High School was integrated into the network’s existing dual ring topology. The dual ring configuration ensures service redundancy, providing a secondary data path if the primary internet ring fails. Alexandria serves as a central hub for the CMETS network, with much of the physical network equipment located at Woodland Elementary School, site of the district office.
As work progressed, Arvig teams discovered a broader issue with the transport network—the failover mechanism on one of the rings was flawed and not functioning properly. So the Arvig teams dug in and went to work.
“Because of the amount of work put into their initial site addition at Alexandria High School, we gained valuable insight into the transport network as a whole. What worked, what didn’t, and what we could be doing better,” Grotjohn said.
2019: ‘End of Life’ Upgrades
Arvig manages the routing and switching equipment on the CMETS network. After the team determined that those components were near the end of their useful life, Arvig developed a plan to upgrade to newer Cisco equipment. The project was a success, but it was no small undertaking.
“Basically, we completely disassembled their entire transport network, and stood up a new one in a matter of hours,” said Justin Grotjohn, Network Administrator on Arvig’s Service Delivery Team. “This was possible due largely to standing up this equipment in a lab environment with many hours of testing and tweaking, and the amount of technicians (teams from Perham and Melrose) Arvig was able to have on site to facilitate a project of that size.”
Technology leaders on the school district side took note of the complexity of the upgrade.
“I was truly impressed with Justin’s attention to detail, problem solving skills and positive win-win attitude in bringing this new ring online,” said Kevin Brezina, Director of Technology at Alexandria Public Schools.
In 2019, Arvig was awarded an E-Rate contract to install new equipment and upgrade the bandwidth on the CMETS network. E-Rate is the common name for the Universal Service Schools and Libraries program, a federal initiative that offers discounts to schools and libraries to offset the cost of internet and telecommunications services. Arvig’s E-Rate project increased shared internet bandwidth across the network to 5Gbps, and bumped up bandwidth from Parkers Prairie to Alexandria to 10Gb.
But the work didn’t end there. On another stretch of the network—Minnewaska to Albany—Arvig executed a successful service cutover, moving the network off of Spectrum and connecting it to leased dark fiber from CMETS partner-carriers.
Arvig’s mission is simple: To be the best service provider anywhere. When it comes to serving a network as large and diverse as CMETS, providing the best service requires going above and beyond what is required.