In the News

The Everybody Learns Initiative Benefits Willimantic Public Library

How expanding broadband internet access benefits Willimantic community

It’s National Digital Inclusion Week!

Visit this link to learn more about the benefits of the Everybody Learns project: https://www.wtnh.com/news/connecticut/windham/how-expanding-broadband-internet-access-benefits-willimantic-community/

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. (WTNH) – Places like the Willimantic Public Library quickly became hubs for free broadband internet access during the pandemic. Even helping out kids who couldn’t do their homework at home.

“They were literally sitting next to libraries or places where they could get an internet connection,” said Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, (D) Connecticut.

The first free WiFi was provided inside the library and then using pandemic relief money through the state’s Everybody Learns Initiative an outside hotspot was added. There will be 200 statewide.

“A big portion of the people coming in especially right now are coming in to access the WiFi,” said Willimantic Public Library Director Dan Paquette.

An effort the governor wants to continue to expand.

“They’ll pull the cable out to that home right here on Main Street it’s sort of easy but for folks who live sort of remote we got to work harder,” said Gov. Ned Lamont, (D) Connecticut.

The state also wants people to be aware of the help that is out there now like the Emergency Broadband Benefit which may provide $50 a month toward most internet bills.

“There’s an income cap of I believe it’s $99,000 a year for an individual. $198,000 for a couple so it’s pretty generous,” said Doug Casey, Executive Director of the CT Commission on Educational Technology.

But Congressman Joe Courtney, (D) Connecticut, says those programs will only continue if congress agrees again to raise the debt limit so the country can pay its bills.

“Last week the house sent a bill to the senate. It is exactly verbatim the same as the bill that was passed in the last Congress with the prior president that he signed into law that raised the debt limit,” said Rep. Courtney.

The library also has eleven mobile hotspots people can check out for three weeks at a time. They provide internet access on the go.

“Since we started offering those in May they’ve almost pretty much always been checked out fully,” aid Paquette.

A project he’d like to expand if the government continues to fund the programs which were already approved.

“We should stop torturing people,” said Rep. Courtney.

For more information, head to getemergencybroadband.org

CAP Distance Learning Scholarship Recipient Uses CEN Connection To Bring Life To Weather Unit

Connecticut Teacher Brings Wonder to Weather with CAP Distance Learning Scholarship

Sixth graders at Thompson Middle School in Connecticut were amazed that the weather in their hometown was warmer than in Texas where their presenter was logging in. Examining why Texas would be colder than Connecticut in the middle of March acted as the spark and guiding force for students as they worked with Don Harrington from the Discovery Center in Amarillo, Texas to learn how and why weather is created.

     

As a recipient of the Internet2 Community Anchor Program Distance Learning Scholarship and through her school’s connection to the Connecticut Education Network (CEN), Louise Morrison, a veteran teacher of 21 years, was able to bring her Weather Unit to life in a unique way with a live, interactive, edu-tainment program offered through the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC).

The Virtual Science Live! Weather Wonders Program from the Discovery Center used dynamic demonstrations and experiments to illustrate the different conditions that are necessary to create clouds, precipitation, lightning, thunder, tornadoes, and other weather phenomena. For example, one of the experiments allowed students to explore the various atmospheric elements and how they combine by making snow.

Morrison shares that the live experiments were incredibly exciting for her students: “My students were completely engaged for the entire program and continued to talk about the experiments for several days afterwards.” Emphasizing the value of students reviewing key content with an expert, she explains, “I was able to enhance my students’ learning through this program. It not only allowed my students to meet and learn from a female scientist but also hear the key points of weather from an expert perspective.” With all the content aligned to National Next Generation Science Standards standards, the program fit “perfectly” into their unit on weather science.

As a recipient of CAP’s Distance Learning Scholarship, Morrison was able to utilize her school’s connection to the Connecticut Education Network (CEN) to participate in the program free of cost. “I would absolutely recommend CILC to other teachers. The experience was great for my students, they were able to see experiments that we wouldn’t be able to do in our classroom. It was an opportunity that they would not have been able to experience any other way.”

Offered annually, the Internet2 Community Anchor Program’s scholarship program supported 38 K-12 teachers in seven states to implement free, one-on-one distance learning programs for their class through the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC). All recipients connect to the Internet2 network via their state or regional research and education network, which provides the robust internet connection needed for live, interactive virtual programs.

About Connecticut Education Network (CEN):

The CEN was established in 2000 with an important mission: ensure that students across the state have access to great technology and content on a network that will grow with them. CEN provides advanced Internet and network solutions that are faster and more reliable than any other provider. Since 2001, CEN has operated and managed a 2500 route mile, all optical, high performance, low latency network.

Students at Thompson Middle School in Connecticut are able to experience their weather unit in a unique way with a live, interactive, edu-tainment program offered through the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC).

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.”

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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.”

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This information was published in The Day, By Claire Bessette

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

Free internet access in New London closer to a reality

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

New London — The city is working to finalize a project to extend free internet access to hundreds of New London homes, targeting those without the means to afford access on their own.

Mayor Michael Passero outlined those plans during a news conference Tuesday with Lt. Gov. Susan Bysiewicz, who visited the city to promote Gov. Ned Lamont’s House Bill 6442, An Act Concerning Equitable Access to Broadband.

New London’s own plan involves a partnership with the Connecticut Education Network to use the schools and city-owned buildings to broadcast Wi-Fi hot spots and reach nearby homes.

Initially, the plan will include installation of transmitters to cover a two- to three-block radius around city schools as well as the densely populated Huntington Tower and Winthrop Square apartment complexes. The first phase may reach a portion of the Mohican Apartments on State Street.

Residents in covered areas will have free internet access with certain restrictions, such as limitations on streaming and gaming. The plan has been months in the making and would be expanded to other parts of the city as funding allows. The city is expecting aid from the Dalio Foundation for a portion of the infrastructure work and Passero said he would look for a way to use federal pandemic funds.

Rick Genovese, New London’s director of IT services, has led the technical side of the city’s effort. He said the kickoff was just months away.

“This project has potential to change lives for the better in the city of New London,” Genovese said.

In a matter of months … residents will have access to telehealth, online schooling and telecommuting. These are all essential services that are desperately needed.”

He said it’s been a labor of love for himself, Human Services Director Jeanne Milstein and Passero.

“I think it shows the city really cares for its residents,” Genovese said.

Similar projects are run in cities such as New Haven and Hartford.

Bysiewicz said disparities exist throughout the state when it comes to high-speed internet access — 20% of white families lack access compared to 35% of Latino and 34% of Black families.

House Bill 6442, she said, ultimately would provide universal access to high-speed internet, help to map areas of the state in need of access and provide for lower-cost access in underserved areas. Passage of the bill also would lay a foundation to access funds from proposals by President Joe Biden’s administration to provide internet access to underserved areas of the country.

In New London, it is estimated that 90% of seniors do not have broadband internet access, along with a high percentage of school-aged children.

“For this past year we’ve been living in a digital world. For many of us, the internet has been a critical lifeline,” Bysiewicz said. “For others, the lack of internet has led to missed opportunities for telehealth appointments, missed schoolwork and lack of immediate access for scheduling vaccine appointments.”

Milstein said the city has stepped in with its humanitarian helpline to find people who need help scheduling health and vaccine appointments, especially the elderly, disabled and those who do not speak English. The city has been using senior center buses to help residents with transportation needs.

The city’s long-term pandemic recovery team also has developed a hybrid learning pod program, partnering with local organizations to provide spaces for students to access to remote classwork and work on off days.

Reona Dyess, executive director of the Drop-in Learning Center, said she deals with families who have internet access but not enough bandwidth to prevent students from getting kicked off.

City Councilor Curtis Goodwin, who works from home, said he took several nieces into his home to help provide internet access but even his internet service was not adequate to handle their schoolwork.

With few options, Goodwin said getting better access meant infrastructure work at his complex.

“Just imagine how many other people aren’t fortunate enough to have funds to pay for that,” he said. “They’re struggling right now.”

State Rep. Anthony Nolan said the problem is widespread, hitting low-income and Black and brown communities hard, a problem he called “ridiculous” in this day and age. He promised to press hard to help ensure the governor’s legislation gets attention in Hartford.

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[Here’s Another Source]

CT Ranks Above National Average for School Internet Connectivity Provided By CEN

Connecticut School Districts Are Above the National Average When It Comes to School Internet Connectivity

CT Ranks Above National Average for School Internet Connectivity Provided By CEN

49% OF CONNECTICUT SCHOOL DISTRICTS ARE AT 1 MBPS PER STUDENT

Hartford, Connecticut (March 24, 2021) – Connecticut school districts are doing better than much of the country when it comes to having the school internet connectivity needed for digital learning, according to data published by nonprofit Connected Nation through its Connect K-12 website.

“In Connecticut, we have taken on digital equity as the Brown v. Board of Education of our time,” said Gov. Ned Lamont. “Whether it is connecting students at home through our Everybody Learns initiative or providing virtually limitless broadband to schools through the flagship Connecticut Education Network, we are working to ensure all students have an equal opportunity for digital learning, in every home and classroom, every day.”

An overview of the state’s school district connectivity report can be found here: https://connectk12.org/states/CT. It tracks the progress Connecticut schools have made over the last four years in reaching the federally-recommended goal of 1 Mbps per student—a goal set by the Federal Communications Commission.

Right now, 49% of Connecticut school districts are meeting or exceeding that goal. Whereas only 47% of school districts nationwide are doing the same.

“The progress Connecticut school districts have made over the last four years is incredible. They’ve made the leap from 32% of school districts to nearly half meeting the recommendation,” said Emily Jordan, Vice President for Connect K-12. “That has been possible through a robust state network (the Connecticut Education Network) that provides safe, scalable internet connections in a cooperative model that has kept pricing level even as consumption has increased. State and school district leaders have taken proactive steps to ensure that more Connecticut school buildings have the internet connectivity needed to ensure teachers and students have the resources for digital learning. We applaud the schools for leveraging their federal E-rate dollars to do more for K-12 education in the state.”

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[Here’s Another Source]

CEN Partners with Members to Offer Free High-Speed Public Wi-Fi Access (2)

Seymour Offers Two Public WiFi Spots

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

SEYMOUR — The Town of Seymour IT Department, working in conjunction with the First Selectwoman’s Office as well as the Seymour Emergency Management Team, is pleased to announce the availability of two free public WiFi hotspots.

These hotspots are located in the parking lots of the Seymour Public Library (46 Church St) and Seymour Community Center (70 Pine St.).

The town is able to offer this through the Connecticut Education Network through Gov. Ned Lamont’s “Everybody Learns Initiative,” and it is open to the general public.

This program is being provided at no cost to local tax payers.

“At a time when connectivity is so important we could not be more excited to offer this to the residents of Seymour,” First Selectwoman Annmarie Drugonis said.

The information is from the First Selectwoman’s Office.

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Read more about Governor Lamant’s Everyone Learns project here including the full list of public wi-fi access points.

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

Connecticut Education Network bringing free, high-speed public Wi-Fi to Middletown

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

MIDDLETOWN — When pretty much everything goes online, pretty much everyone needs to be able to get online.

The public soon will gain access to a reliable Wi-Fi network free of charge in two areas of the city, as part of a state-funded program aimed at municipalities with high numbers of unconnected households.

The state identified Middletown as one of the towns that would most benefit from the service, according to Gov. Ned Lamont’s “Everybody Learns” initiative, which is creating 200 such community sites across Connecticut. It will be unrolled shortly at the Russell Library, 123 Broad St., and City Hall, 245 deKoven Drive.

“That’s exactly what the city of Middletown needs,” said Bryan Skowera, director of information systems. There will be no cost to taxpayers, and the hardware is being given to the city at no charge.

Since 2000, the Connecticut Educational Network has provided members “reliable, low-latency, high-speed networking and security services,” according to its website. The agency is run out of the University of Connecticut.

The public can access the service at gigabyte speeds within a 300-foot radius of the facilities, according to CEN.

“The joy of being able to host this at City Hall is that when the weather is nicer, we have park benches, shade, a nice lawn with a view of the river, and the deck around City Hall,” Skowera said.

The service requires direct access to the CEN’s fiber optic network, so he does not anticipate it being rolled out at city parks. “It is run either through the aerials on the overhead wires or through underground conduit,” Skowera said.

The service is also COVID-friendly, Skowera said. “There will be opportunities for people to gather, but not have to be close to each other to access the service.”

“The governor is very committed to bridging Connecticut’s digital divide, especially given the importance of internet connectivity as COVID-19 forces families to attend school, go to work, and get health care online,” according to a press release.

Already, people congregate near municipal offices, more so in spring and summer.

“In warmer months, I’ve always been used to seeing passersby, members of the downtown community and families taking advantage of the public space, during (for example) a nice Wednesday afternoon, sitting down, out of the office or taking a break on the weekend from their shopping — just sitting and reflecting on the beauty of the riverfront,” Skowera said.

Patrons also will be able to access broadband outside the Russell Library on the benches, lawn, nearby parking spots and, possibly, in the closest section of the Broad Street municipal lot, directly across the street, according to Director Ramona Burkey.

While some may be able to pick up a weak signal from the library, its Wi-fi technology is built for interior only, she said. “We’ve got those 200-year-old brownstone walls that are several feet thick, and the signal is not very strong outside from inside.

“With the access points outdoors, that are designed to be outdoors and have a pretty wide broadcast range, you’ll have a much better signal when you’re outside,” Burkey said.

After a year, these access points will be donated to the sites, which then will pay a very small fee ($100 annually) to maintain services, Skowera said. They are expensive, he added.

“All encompassing public Wi-Fi is a tremendous investment in a community. In some ways, it requires the creation of a utility, or utility-like, governing body,” Skowera said. “If you think about it, it’s not just a single piece of equipment.

“It is a series of different types of equipment that has to be constantly connected, monitored, and connected to an internet provider that people can rely on,” he said. “We can’t stop at deploying one access point and walk away from it, saying that will meet the community needs. It requires constant monitoring and constant maintenance.”

These hotspots are an alternative to businesses, such as coffeehouses, that offer free Wi-Fi to customers. “Students, families and anyone else who needs a place to go without having to buy a sandwich or coffee or be a consumer, they can access a free signal with reliable internet service,” Skowera said.

The library is offering curbside-only pickup during the pandemic.

“Now, anytime the library is not open, especially when the weather is nice out, people will be able to grab a free wireless signal and do whatever they need to do — whether it’s from a laptop or their mobile device,” Burkey said.

“That resource will be available to them at any time: 24/7, 365 (hours a day) just outside the library,” she said.

“The internet service is leveraging CEN, which is a wonderful resource for municipalities, schools and library systems behind the scenes, without any work from the public who use it, the public agencies who leverage it, and schools that rely on it,” Skowera said.

CED also provides “excellent protections,” which stop [Blockchain Denial of Service] attacks, Skowera said. “They provide such amazing services to us. They are a success story, from top to bottom.

“They’re a very small agency that provides an immense amount of services that protects our children, our constituents, and they’re available for businesses as well,” the director said.

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Read more about Governor Lamant’s Everyone Learns project here including the full list of public wi-fi access points.

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