The idea of creating a high-speed network linking public organizations in the Waterloo region originated in early 1998. Prescient International Inc., which had successfully implemented an educational network for the North York District School Board, proposed the concept to the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) and offered to partner with them to design and implement the network.
Proposal Accepted by the Ministry of Education and Training
In March 1998, the WRDSB, WCDSB – with assistance from Prescient International Inc. – prepared a business case and proposal to develop a high-speed self-managed fibre network linking all schools under the jurisdictions of the boards. The Ministry of Education and Training accepted the proposal in September 1998. The Ministry agreed to provide one-time funding to the boards to implement the fibre network, under the condition that target objectives outlined in the business case be satisfied and the network be made available to other public organizations in the community.
Request for Proposal
Following a full analysis of requirements, the boards, with assistance from Prescient International Inc. developed a Request for Proposals (RFP). The RFP was issued jointly by the boards in March 1999. Through a thorough evaluation process the following vendors were selected to construct the fibre network and supply hardware:
MFP Financial Services and sub-contractor 3COM Canada Ltd.
Atria Networks and sub-contractor Integrated Cable Systems (ICS)
The vendors and Prescient International Inc were designated as WREPNet business partners.
Partners Join the Venture
Public sector organizations in the Waterloo Region were invited to join. A total of eight other organizations came forward and joined the partnership.
With the consulting support of Prescient International Inc., negotiations and planning for the full WREPNet project occurred during the summer and fall of 1999. The terms under which the WREPNet founding organizations would formally partner was also defined and a joint venture agreement was drafted and settled.
The partnership created a governance model comprised of committees and teams of appropriate representatives of WREPNet partner organizations. The Governance Model was established to facilitate business and technical planning processes. It was also established to ensure the thorough participation of all WREPNet partners in the processes used to define technical solutions and make business decisions about the approach used in defining, implementing and managing WREPNet.
The governance model consists of the following committees:
- Steering Committee
- Business Planning Group
- Technical Team
- Project Management Office
The Steering Committee, co-chaired by the Superintendents of Business from WRDSB and WCDSB, was composed of CFO level representatives of the WREPNet participant organizations. The committee provided corporate direction and oversight to the project and program resources; it was the top approval body.
Business Planning Group (BPG)
The Business Planning Group (BPG), co-chaired by the WCDSB CIO and the City of Kitchener Director of IT, was comprised of IT Directors and managers from the participant organizations and Prescient International. The BPG provided operational direction to the project, reviewing all technical and business subjects and made recommendations to the Steering Committee for approval.
The Technical Team (TT) was composed of IT technical staff of the WREPNet participant organizations and Prescient International. Technical experts from Prescient International and vendor organizations provided direct consultation to the Technical Team and participated regularly at TT meetings. The Technical Team was co-chaired by the City of Kitchener Technical Support Supervisor and the WCDSB Manager of Technical Support Services. The purpose of the TT was to solve technical problems and make recommendations to the BPG on technical issues and subjects.
Project Management Office
As WREPNet moved through the negotiations, planning and prototype network stages, the need for a focused structure to manage the full WREPNet implementation emerged. As a result, a Project Management Office (PMO) was formed. The PMO was composed of key representatives of the WREPNet partnership and the business partners. To ensure the utmost continuity between the Business Planning Group, Technical Team and the PMO, the co-chairs of both committees sat on the PMO. One Technical Team representative from the Waterloo Region District School Board also sat on the PMO given the number of board sites to be implemented. The PMO was responsible for the day-to-day management of the network implementation and ended once full implementation had been achieved.
A prototype network was defined with input from the WREPNet partner organizations and the business partners. The intent of this prototype network was to assess the adequacy of the network design and its physical and logical components. The prototype network was implemented in January 2000, and during January and February 2000 the prototype network was thoroughly tested. Tests included quality and speed tests on the installed fibre, load and stress tests on the installed hardware and end user network application testing. Results of these tests confirmed that the prototype network was properly designed, performed within expected technical parameters and met or exceeded all applicable industry standards. Vendor performance, another area being assessed, was also evaluated to be acceptable.
Connecting All of the Sites
WREPNet partners accepted the prototype network at the end of February 2000. Approval was received to proceed on the full WREPNet project conditional upon the satisfactory settlement of all contracts between WREPNet partners and vendors. By the end of May 2000 all contract hurdles had been dealt with and the process of connecting sites began in earnest.
In June 2001, the first of nine phases was completed. During each phase, a specific set of partner sites was connected to the network. Prior to a site being connected, a great deal of preparatory work needed to be done – the fibre was run to the site, the location within the site where the fibre connected with the LAN was made ready and all component were thoroughly tested.
Phase 9 was completed on October 3, 2001 with the connection of the last of the 227 original sites at MacKenzie King Public School in Kitchener.
A New Name
In June 2000, a decision was made to change the name and logo created for the project. Prior to this decision the network was called WRECN Waterloo Region Education and Community Network. WREPNet –the Waterloo Region Education and Public Network- was thought to better reflect the public partnership and focus of the venture.
Welcoming New Partners
Over the next few years, the WREPNet organization welcomed new public sector partners.