KIRTLAND — Staff and students at some San Juan College campuses around San Juan County will see a dramatic improvement in network bandwidth next semester.

During the college board meeting Tuesday night, the board approved pursuing a contract with CenturyLink to establish a high-bandwidth network connection between the main campus on College Boulevard and the East campus in Aztec, the West campus in Kirtland and the School of Energy's main location on Hutton Street in Farmington.

Chief Information Officer Shelley Amator said the deal, which will include telephone services, is expected to cost a little more than $200,000 over five years.

The new network setup is expected to be completed before the start of the fall semester.

The move is expected to improve productivity and expand educational opportunities.

"Right now, the School of Energy on Hutton and West (campus) use a 3-megabit connection. Most people have more than that at their house," Amator said. "It's like sucking an elephant through a straw."

The update to the college's internal network operations became possible as more companies began to offer fiber-optic data services in the county.

The network manages the use of college services for student enrollment, library operations and course teaching for professors.

The West campus and School of Energy locations will see their network bandwidth jump from a 3 to 40 megabits per second connection while East campus will go from 1.5 to 10 megabits per second.

A T-1 line is currently being used to transmit data between the main campus and the East campus. Two T-1 lines were merged about two years ago for data use for the West campus and School of Energy locations.

At the West campus location in Kirtland, director Elaine Benally welcomed the change.

"It's been something I've hoped we would be able to do," Benally said. "The whole purpose of putting the West campus here is for the western community members to have better access to the services and support that San Juan College offers to students for education reasons."

There are about 100 computers on campus, including the computer classroom, the public computer lab, the library, a laptop cart with 25 laptops and office terminals.

"If they have more than 10 people working on the computers simultaneously, depending on what they are working on, it gets slower and slower and slower," Benally said. "The faculty would not be as hesitant to try and use the computers if the speed is a little faster."

The increase in bandwidth will help teachers broaden their teacher styles and help students with researching and studying with more ease, Benally said. She said some teachers were nervous about using Angel, the software used by faculty to put course information -- class assignments, quizzes and tests -- online.

For a group of 20 students, it takes about 5 minutes for everyone to sign into the Angel software.

"If students as a class would try and access Angel simultaneously, it doesn't work," Benally said. "So you would have to say, 'You log in now then you log in, now it's your turn to log in.'"

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or jkellogg@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @jkelloggdt.