HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Huntsville City schools secured advanced technology at an affordable price, the OmniLynx. However, this little hot spot device, and mission to serve city students, was too good to be true according to Verizon Wireless.
Verizon is disconnecting this service from the school system on November 30th. According to Huntsville City Schools Spokesperson, Keith Ward, this will take Wi-Fi hotspots away from roughly 1,900 users.
In January, at a Huntsville City Schools board meeting, Verizon Wireless and the school board were both singing praises about the program's possibilities. The Government Manager for Verizon Wireless, Josh Hill, commented at that meeting. “There are just a lot of great things that we are going to be able to do on behalf of Verizon Wireless and City of Huntsville Schools that is very out of the box,” said Hill.
They planned to do this by offering the portable OmniLynx device that delivers high-speed internet with no contract, free equipment, an unlimited data plan, and no set up fee, for $47.75. This is a highly discounted rate from the average price of $99.99.
The overall mission was to increase the learning network for all students in order to support the digital 1:1 initiative and diminish the digital divide.
Huntsville City Schools and Verizion Wireless entered a Western States Contracting Alliance agreement; allowing the school system to use and sell OmniLynx Services.
According to Huntsville City Schools Project Manager, Jacob Boyett, the first phase rollout was to test out the efficiency of the product.
“The marketing target was the employees themselves;” said Boyett at the January board meeting. “We were getting our feet under us, making sure we had everything ironed out where we could handle a larger customer audience.”
Then the school system planned to go on with the second phase as agreed upon in the original agreement with Verizon Wireless.
“In phase two,” explained Boyett. “We are calling it faculty and family, and phase two is really who we are targeting. It’s the student households.”
If you visited hsvwifi.com and clicked to order the device it asked you to specify if you are a city employee, student or family, resident of Huntsville, or other. The “other” can apply to anyone interested in buying the product for the reduced rate.
Verizon Wireless released the following statement:
At Verizon, we have a long-standing commitment to improve the lives of individuals and the communities we serve. This includes providing students and educators access to affordable technology to enrich the learning experience. In keeping with this commitment, Verizon agreed to offer certain discounted services to the Huntsville City Schools. The discounted services were intended to be used only by the school system. Acting outside the scope of the agreement between Verizon and Huntsville City Schools, the school system made the discounted services available to the general public. While Verizon has notified the school system it will support only those lines within the scope of the agreement, the company remains committed to supporting education in Huntsville and will continue to work in good faith with Huntsville City Schools to resolve the situation
According to Huntsville City School Spokesperson Keith Ward, the school district is looking into other Wi-Fi services to bring to students in order to bridge the divide in the 1:1 digital initiative.