Recent History – 1999
Feb. 10, 1999, By Mike Leschart, Daily News Staff
Dawson Creek and area schools will be the last in the province to see the benefits of the Provincial Learning Network (PLNet) — the government-implemented Internet network — but when it does arrive the technology will be a welcome advancement.
According to Peace River South Assistant Superintendent Dave Nybakken, the province has said the network will be installed in local schools by November of 1999 but because it’s a province-wide undertaking, he’s not counting on it.
“They’re pretty quiet when I ask them directly,” he said. “But if they’re a few months late I’m not going to be surprised or worried about it.”
There are currently 852 B.C. schools connected to PLNet. The network provides Internet connection, support materials for teachers and video conferencing capability.
Local schools are already using Internet technology, and many have been connected for more than two years. There are 25 schools in the South Peace with Internet access.
An agreement with the Peace Region Internet Society (PRIS) provides Web access to many regional schools, with the exception of South Peace Colony and Kelly Lake. Because these schools use radio telephones, the money needed to provide access would outweigh the benefits.
Local schools are connected through a wide area network that allows relatively quick, reliable access. They have also struck a deal with their service provider, PRIS, which allows them to connect larger networks at a reduced cost.
“Without the Peace Region Internet Society our costs would be horrendous,” said Nybakken.
Which leads to the major attraction of PLNet — it is funded by the province. Although the NDP will solicit bids from local service providers to provide hardware, many of them could be left out, as bigger companies like BC Tel and Sprint will be bidding as well.
Another advantage PLNet offers is video conferencing capability. Nybakken said the province is being quiet about this as well, and will not commit to having the technology installed by the promised November start date.
Regardless, Nybakken is enthusiastic about the possibilities. Students will be able to take video field trips, and long drives between schools for meetings may be eliminated.
“You don’t get the smell and the feel of the field trip, but the opportunities — cost wise –you can do so much more in terms of giving them an experience,” he said.
Schools will continue to be connected through PRIS (the Peace Region Internet Society) until the province makes the new technology available.