District Fiber Network Goes Dark

Yancey connects wires

Yancey connects wires in a district server room.


In July the Wenatchee School District flipped the switch on a new dark fiber network. While the name may sound shady and sinister, “dark fiber” integration is a bright idea for school districts to meet the growing demand for network connectivity, speed and security. 

To better understand the benefits of dark fiber it’s essential to understand what it is. Dark fiber is merely a self-service or “self-provisioned” fiber optic connection. The District then “lights” the fiber by connecting its own network equipment. Bandwidth amounts are controlled by the District instead of leased from a service provider that may limit speed and capacity. 

“We’re in 100% control of our fiber network now and control the traffic from point A to point B,” explained Dave Yancey Wenatchee School District’s director of Operational Technology. With the implementation of the dark fiber in July network connectivity increased from a one gigabit shared connection to an internal 10 gigabits per location and has the potential to grow as high as 40 gigs in the future.

Government institutions, e-commerce, and retail companies are some of the many who can benefit from dark fiber. These organizations require fast and secure internet capabilities due to the transmission of large files of sensitive data.

“The challenge for us was hunger,” says Yancey. With the integration of more network devices in classrooms around the District and more expectations from staff to be able to deliver electronic instruction we needed to take it from where we were, at some bottlenecking, to a more open platform where everybody can cross-communicate at the same time very efficiently and with great speeds.”

In addition to increased speed, the new dark fiber network allows for greater efficiency, cost savings, and network reliability.  “Chelan PUD and Localtel (winning bid) worked with us on a cost savings mechanism called coarse wave division multiplexing. Now instead of leasing 32 strands of fiber back to the central office we only have to lease four,” explained Yancey. With the dark fiber network if there is a problem the District can pinpoint the problem area quickly and work with the vendor and PUD to fix it. The self-provisioned system also helps isolate the District from any extensive network outages that may affect other fiber circuits.

Yancey has been with the Wenatchee School District in technology since 1993 and at the helm of the operational technology department for 16 years. He’s seen the network and network needs grow significantly in that time. He credits his team with the implementation of dark fiber which was completed in a short three-week window in July. So, what’s next for Yancey and the operational technology team?  “To keep making it [dark fiber] better.  The next thing is to take what we've built as a foundation and make it more efficient, so we get the biggest bang for our buck and continue to deliver great service to our students and staff,” he said.

About Operational Technology 
The mission of the Operational Technology Department of Wenatchee School District is to support the education of our students by providing useful technical guidance in the purchase and support of technology used in district instructional and operational goals. Operational Technology supports technology equipment, network services and security, telephone systems, electronics (alarms, clocks, bells), camera systems, access control, AV installation, hardware standards and refresh, help desk services with Technical Support Specialist (Tier I)/Technical Support Specialist (Tier II) and electronic document/print design and production services.