Month: July 2021

From the Director: Summer Newsletter 2021

Ryan Kocsondy
CEN Director

I hope we are all taking a sigh of relief as we put what may be the most challenging academic and calendar years behind us.  It may be hard to describe recent events sometimes, but some of our pandemic go-to phrases may suffice: ‘unprecedented’, ‘transformative’, ‘we’re in this together’, ‘wash your hands’, ‘new normal’, ‘virtual <insert any word here>’, and last but not least ‘you’re on mute’.  Whew, thank goodness that is out of the way.

As everyone has dealt with the pandemic in their own way, we have a chance to look back at what has been a crazy and hectic year for education, work, play, stress, rest, relaxation, and just life in general.  Some recent successes:

The return of the CEN Annual Conference, where we and more than 420 attendees participated in the three-day online event.  We received lots of positive feedback, mostly due to the awesome content and insights provided, vetted, and delivered by our community.  We look forward to seeing new proposals and returning to an in-person event on May 5, 2022 at the Hartford Convention Center.

The CEN community continues to grow. With more than 650 community anchor institutions participating in the Network, we also took the opportunity to give back through a 2% rate reduction starting July 1, 2021.  The reduction in rates and continued high quality service model help deliver on our primary goal of ‘Provide Value’ in our community driven CEN Strategic Plan implemented in 2019.

CEN technical staff are as busy as ever rolling out The Governor’s Everyone Learns Initiative WiFi locations in partnership with our community members. The Hub Site Upgrades project is well underway, rolling out additional 100G capacity to our busiest backbones and improving visibility, telemetry, and security of the CEN broadband infrastructure.

The CEN community has performed well overall and helped position Connecticut as a leader in the pandemic response.  The physical network sustained the new demands of remote and hybrid learning, work, and telemedicine. The ‘human network’ has also really proven its resiliency, reliability, and flexibility to get things done and make the best of the situation.

This summer will hopefully prove to be relaxing for most, as we all try and get some much-needed time to rejuvenate and work on projects and tasks on the near horizon.

Kudos and a big THANK YOU to all the IT professionals and leaders out there helping it all come together.


Happy Summer everyone,

Ryan Kocsondy


CT Libraries Fiber Consortium Project: Summer Newsletter 2021

In February 2016, the CT State Library established a statewide buying consortium so that all principal public libraries and their branches in the state could use one RFP for the purchase of fiber. Efficient broadband capacity is extremely important in terms of accessibility. As opposed to other technologies like DSL or a cable modem, a fiber connection offers almost unlimited capacity, making it the technology of choice for this project.

The library community has taken a leadership role by partnering with CEN to bring high speed internet connectivity to all citizens regardless of where they reside through federal E-rate and matching State Library bonded funds. CEN provides an enhanced network solution that increases the libraries total bandwidth and also addresses burst performance. Many of the project sites connect underserved communities where connectivity options have remained relatively unchanged for decades.

Since 2017, the State Library Board has approved a total of $1.5M in fiber grants. New high-speed fiber internet connections have been completed to 75 libraries. This has expanded the ability of each library to more effectively reach their constituents and bring on-line more services needed by the community of users. This project not only provides high quality service at reasonable costs, but bridges gaps in the digital divide and helps libraries continue to thrive as community assets.

The project is currently in phase 7 as outlined below:

  • Phases 1-6: 75 sites completed
  • Phase 7: Awarded on January 14, 2021. 5 committed and moving forward
  • The current project across all phases (1–7) will bring total fiber-connected libraries to 171 (including 47 branches), representing 72% of all 239 libraries statewide

CEN Partners with National Research & Education Network, Internet2, to Provide Eduroam Service to Members

Wireless Roaming Network Expands with Support for K–12 Schools at State and Regional Levels

CEN Partners with National Research & Education Network, Internet2, to Provide Eduroam Service to Members

Nonprofit Internet2 has been working with state and regional agencies to help accelerate the spread of eduroam into K–12 schools, libraries and museums, resulting in the launch of eduroam Support Organizations.

eduroam is a worldwide WiFi roaming network developed for academic and research institutions. The aim of the new eduroam Support Organizations launched after an initial pilot involving 38 K–12 districts in Utah in 2020. Initial eduroam Support Organizations include the Utah Education and Telehealth Network (UETN), Network Nebraska and Arizona’s Sun Corridor Network.

“Our Utah K-12 eduroam program made network access and education resources readily available during the pandemic and showed off this robust and sustainable platform in both urban and rural deployments,” said Jim Stewart, chief technology officer for UETN, in a prepared statement. “We’ve enjoyed a long collaboration with Internet2 and eduroam since this service was initially implemented by Utah universities several years ago.”

According to Internet2, “eduroam is a secure, world-wide wireless roaming service developed for the international research and education community and is available in over 100 countries. In the US, more than 900 institutions have deployed eduroam and have made the offering available to their staff, students, faculty, and researchers. Unlike public WiFi, an eduroam user can quickly and seamlessly authenticate to eduroam WiFi with a single, secure credential. The eduroam user’s device can automatically connect when visiting eduroam-enabled schools, libraries, museums, and other participating institutions. This is particularly important for students who live in rural areas where broadband access is limited, or who have inadequate or no access to broadband at home.”

[Read More]

This information was published in The Journal, By David Nagel

CEN Partners with Norwich Public Utilities to Offer Free High-Speed Public Wi-Fi Access

Norwich Public Utilities to Install Free Public Internet Hot Spots in City Neighborhoods

CEN Partners with Members to Offer Free High-Speed Public Wi-Fi Access

Norwich — In spring of 2020, city and school leaders scrambled to provide internet access with individual so-call hot spots for homes and apartments for families in need and a few scattered larger units at public sites.

The city’s network of free internet access is about to get much broader.

Norwich Public Utilities officials this week unveiled a plan in partnership with the Connecticut Education Network to bring free high-speed, high-capacity public Wi-Fi to more than a dozen locations in the city. Many will be placed in densely populated neighborhoods identified by school officials as high need areas. Others will be at or near public buildings or parks, where residents and students could go to connect and download school assignments or submit completed schoolwork.

John Covey, information technology manager for NPU, said the project is being spearheaded by CEN in 107 cities and towns across the state to provide high-speed devices at no cost to the community for one year. In Norwich, the devices will be turned over to NPU after that period, and NPU will continue the free service, Covey said.

These are not in-home Wi-Fi hotspots or routers, Covey said. He compared the difference as a kitchen faucet for the home device to a fire hydrant for the public devices, which are about the size of a laptop with antenna attached. Each one is powerful enough to serve about two urban blocks and about 100 connections at a time.

NPU initially received eight devices from the state, and CEN provided five additional units at no cost.

Locations had to be chosen along the NPU’s current fiber optic network, which was installed to serve NPU, city government buildings and city schools.

The 13 sites include several locations downtown and in Greeneville, including Boswell Avenue-Hickory Street, Central Avenue-North Main Street, 12th Street-Central Avenue, Boswell Avenue-North Main Street, Lake Street-Boswell Avenue and the NPU headquarters and customer service center in Greeneville.

Units will be placed at the Howard T. Brown Memorial Park at Norwich Harbor, at City Hall, the Rose City Senior Center, police department and Otis Library. The device at Otis Library is installed already, Covey said.

Covey projected installations will begin in mid-July and will be in place by the start of next school year.

The devices alone cost about $5,000 each, but installation could run as high as $10,000 to $15,000 per site, depending on the amount of infrastructure is needed. NPU will cut the cost by using only areas already along the utility’s fiber optic network and where infrastructure exists to hang the devices — such as on existing poles or public buildings or where the city already has public security cameras. NPU line crews will do the installations on their regular work time, NPU officials said.

“This is a terrific service we are going to be able to provide for a big chunk of the community,” NPU spokesman Chris Riley said. “A no-cost service NPU will be able to provide to the community.”

Norwich Human Services Director Lee Ann Gomes, who worked last spring to secure in-home internet connections and devices throughout the city when the pandemic hit, welcomed the project.

“The pandemic showed how divided we are as a community, with people with and without internet access,” Gomes said. “People couldn’t apply for unemployment or even order toilet paper. People were going to parking lots to hook up to Wi-Fi.”

The new Wi-Fi devices will offer two connection choices. The CT Public access will be a “one-click” connection. The second connection, Eduroam, will allow students to use their authorized passwords to sign into their specific schools to download their assignments, submit classwork or interact with their schools.

The Wi-Fi devices will have filters to prohibit access to pornography, gambling sites or the purchase of alcohol or drugs. But everyday shopping will be allowed, Covey said.

NFA spokesman Michael O’Farrell said the school provided data to NPU on where dense populations of students in need of the service live in Norwich. NPU correlated that information with the nearest available infrastructure to hang the devices.

If students do not live in those immediate neighborhoods, they can drive or ride bicycles to the area, sign in and download assignments or submit completed work. NFA has a similar device for school and staff only on the Tirrell Building on campus.

“We’re trying to have an effective system,” O’Farrell said. “In terms of access and breaking down barriers, it’s a tool and a significant tool to do that.”

[Read More]

This information was published in The Day, By Claire Bessette