EDINBURG, RGV – Region One Education Service Center says it is one step closer to closing the “digital divide” for students in the region.

That’s because of the approval of a 10-year $6.7 million funding application by the Universal Service Administration Company (USAC) for the ORION project.

ORION (One Regional Interconnected Optical Network) is a regional fiber optic network which provides a fast connection to the internet and a connection to other regional school districts to support classroom initiatives.

Ali Kolahdouz

Ali Kolahdouz, Region One Chief Technology Officer, said ORION will allow participating members more bandwidth and greater internet access that is essential for digital learning and rich technology services at a significant cost savings.

With increased bandwidth students will be able to view virtual and immersive worlds, interact with other students across the globe, and learn in an environment built on 21st century infrastructure, Kolahdouz explained, in an in-depth interview with Rio Grande Guardian editor Steve Taylor.

Kolahdouz said that as the use of online instructional resources, distance learning and e-learning courses is on the rise, the need for bandwidth, the measure for how much data can be transferred over an internet connection, increases and demand is higher.

“The vision for ORION is to provide students access to cutting-edge educational tools using next-gen technology,” said Kolahdouz.

School districts, charter schools, and libraries were invited to join the ORION consortium to take advantage of the initiative and the cost-saving opportunities it presents.

Currently, the consortium boasts 28 members made up of school districts, charter schools, and libraries across an eight-county area.

Cornelio Gonzalez

“Our role as an education service center is to assist school districts to operate efficiently and effectively. Our obligation to the students in our region is to provide opportunities for learning that are equal to their counterparts across the state,” said Dr. Cornelio Gonzalez, Region One ESC executive director.

“ORION allows us to do that by ensuring that all students have access to tools that will enhance and support their learning.”

The above podcast features an in-depth interview with Kolahdouz.