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UETN expansion benefits Utah during ongoing pandemic

The Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN), based at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, provides state-of-the-art broadband infrastructure and other services to schools, colleges, libraries, and health care communities throughout the state. “Despite the challenges of a second pandemic year,” according to Ray Timothy, UETN executive director and CEO, “UETN excelled with expanded services, connections, and video productions.”

In 2021, UETN continued a multiyear project to improve network capacity and speed throughout the state. UETN installed 42 miles of fiber-optic cable in the southeastern corner of the state. When completed, the fiber-optic cable replaced the existing microwave connections to schools in rural San Juan County.

UETN also continues to make great progress in closing the digital divide. UETN and the Murray City School District tested the use of a private LTE radio network to connect hundreds of students learning at home to their school network for remote classes and homework. They also collaborated with partners to conduct the fourth statewide inventory of network equipment and devices; working with Connected Nation, the Utah State Board of Education and other stakeholders, UETN collected data from all K-12 districts and charter schools.UETN also supports the education community by providing professional development courses. In 2021, UETN helped 8,909 educators earn 85,368 hours of professional development.

UETN and its partners promoted the FCC’s Emergency Broadband Benefit on-air and online. The federal program makes Internet access more affordable to low income families. To date, almost 30,000 households have enrolled in the program. UETN also provided training to schools and filed applications for libraries through the FCC’s Emergency Connectivity Fund. In Utah, the fund provides an estimated $30 million for more than 118,000 devices and 15,000 home Internet connections for families.

The Network saw unprecedented growth for telehealth services. Patients and health care providers can now connect via a UETN platform that delivers high-quality video conferencing with the security needed to protect privacy. Eight organizations and 24 clinics are using the service, averaging 1,500 telehealth visits per month. In addition, the telehealth division provides support for school nurses. In 2021, UETN created a pilot program to distribute 170 telehealth kits to rural schools that school nurses cannot staff full-time. The kits help school staff and students connect to the school nurses remotely and provide medical screening information. These virtual visits often help keep students in school instead of sending them home. 

In 2021 UETN began a program to celebrate its people. “Humans of UETN” is a video series that explores the career paths of those who help make Utah’s public media network for education and health care possible. See the first two profiles here: http://go.uen.org/bUl. UETN’s leadership is also important to the high performance computing community. “UETN helps us move, process, and analyze large-scale data faster than ever before. Together, we help researchers advance toward potentially transformative or life-saving breakthroughs,” said Thomas Cheatham, professor and the Director of the University of Utah Center for High-Performance Computing and a member of one of UETN’s advisory councils.

Whether it’s a teacher in Tooele or a physician in Fillmore, a patient in Parowan or a student in St. George, the Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN) provides robust infrastructure, applications and support for education and healthcare. UETN connects all Utah school districts, schools and higher education institutions and serves hospitals, clinics ,and health departments in urban, suburban and rural areas of the state.