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Eight Hillsboro schools, and more soon, are now connected to high-speed internet through a partnership with the city.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway and Hillsboro School District board chair Erika Lopez connect a cable at Evergreen Middle School on Feb. 5, symbolically marking the launch of highspeed internet connectivity at eight Hillsboro schools.HiLight — Hillsboro's city-owned high-speed internet service — has officially launched at eight Hillsboro schools.

The Hillsboro School District partnered with the city government early in the planning process for HiLight. The school system pitched in $12.6 million, drawn from proceeds from a 2017 bond, as district officials saw an opportunity to bring broadband internet to all Hillsboro students and staff.

HiLight will eventually become available to all Hillsboro residents, allowing people to purchase 1-gigabit internet at affordable rates, city officials say. The city's new fiber-optic cables are expected go live in different parts of the city over the next 10 years.

Hillsboro officials expect the service will be available to people in South Hillsboro and the Shute Park area this winter.

District and city leaders say HiLight will be key to the equity and academic success of Hillsboro students. They addressed the benefits of the new system during a launch event at Evergreen Middle School on Wednesday morning, Feb. 5.

"Soon every student and staff will have fast and reliable connection to the digital resources that are essential to a modern education," said Erika Lopez, who chairs the Hillsboro School Board. "There's still work to be done to ensure that all of our students have access to technology, and that we eliminate barriers to our most underserved community members."

Audience members counted down as Lopez and Mayor Steve Callaway connected a cable symbolically marking the launch of the service at Evergreen. Afterward, three students successfully tested the connection.

The eight schools that are currently connected are all in Hillsboro's northwest corner. They are Eastwood Jackson, Lincoln Street, Mooberry and Patterson elementary schools, as well as Evergreen Middle School, Glencoe High School and the Hillsboro Online Academy, which is housed in the Peter Boscow Conference Center.

"Through May, the connections will start rolling pretty quick," said Jordan Beveridge, chief information technology officer for the Hillsboro School District.

PMG PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER OERTELL - Hillsboro School District board chair Erika Lopez speaks about the district's partnership with the City of Hillsboro at an event at Evergreen Middle School, which celebrated the launch of highspeed internet at eight Hillsboro schools on Wednesday, Feb. 5.Beveridge said the next batch of schools will be brought online as early as the following week. Those schools include W. L. Henry Elementary School, Brookwood Elementary School, Imlay Elementary School, Orenco Elementary School, Quatama Elementary School, Raymond Arthur Brown Middle School and both Miller Education Center campuses.

HiLight is expected to save the district about $5 million over the next 10 years, according to school officials.

Much of those cost savings will come from no longer having to maintain individual networks at each school location, said Eric Harrison, technology services coordinator for the Northwest Regional Education Service District, which is also now connected to broadband.

Additionally, internet service won't go down at the schools that are connected, because they're connected in a ring configuration, Beveridge said. If someone accidentally dug up one of the underground fiber-optic cables during a construction project, for example, nearby schools would still be connected through the other side of the ring, he said.

"We're so dependent on this technology that whenever we had a fiber cut somewhere, the school would be effectively down for a day," Harrison said. This new infrastructure should address that issue.

Callaway said the city of Hillsboro hopes to continue to partner with the school district on projects that increase equity for residents and improve economic opportunities for students and families.

"Kids that have good internet speed here, as we roll it out in our city, will have the same access to internet at home," Callaway said.

The city decided to roll HiLight out in the Shute Park area first because many residents in that area can't afford high-speed internet. The city also took the opportunity to install fiber in South Hillsboro now — before more than 8,000 homes are finished — as a cost-saving measure.

When it goes live, HiLight will offer 1-gigabit internet for $55 per month — about half as much as Comcast for the same speed. People can buy 2-, 3- and 4-gigabit internet for $125, $200 and $300 per month.

Residents who qualify for federal low-income assistance programs can purchase 1-gigabit internet for as low as $10 per month.

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