In the News

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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CEN Congratulates Internet2 CAP Scholarship Recipients


Internet2 CAP Scholarship Recipients

Congratulations Connecticut Teachers!

The CEN team would like to extend our congratulations to the 13 Connecticut teachers who were awarded the Distance Learning Scholarship from Internet2’s CAP program! These scholarship winners will receive free, one-on-one, distance learning programs for their class through the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration (CILC).

With 14 awards, Connecticut’s teachers led the way in this national competition, illustrating their commitment to enriching student’s education with new programming in these challenging times. Kirstina Frazier from Andover Elementary School describes her plans, “I want my students to gain a greater appreciation for the people and cultures from around the world through traditional storytelling and instruments.” Kirstina selected the Exploring the Continents with Story and Song program to allow her first to third grade students the opportunity to gain an appreciation and understanding of the world around them. 

About the scholarships:

Read the full Internet2 press release here including the full list of Internet2 Distance Learning Scholarship Winners.

[Read More]

CEN Helps Address the Digital Divide

Governor Lamont Announces the Everybody Learns Initiative: A $43.5 Million Program to Close the Digital Divide for Connecticut Students

CEN Helps Address the Digital Divide

(HARTFORD, CT) – Governor Ned Lamont announced today that his administration is launching the Everybody Learns initiative: a $43.5 million investment in remote learning solutions to close the digital divide in Connecticut and empower students across the state to learn from home, especially as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues impacting the country. The governor said that the funding – which comes from the state’s portion of the federal CARES Act, the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, and the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund – will be used to purchase 50,000 laptops for students, 12 months of access to at-home internet for 60,000 students, create public hotspots free to the public at 200 community sites across the state, and offer social emotional learning content to school districts statewide.

“There are few responsibilities more important to me as Governor than ensuring all students in Connecticut receive a high-quality, world-class education,” Governor Lamont said. “In 2020, it is paramount that every Connecticut student has access to high-speed internet, quality digital learning content, and a reliable and effective learning device. Too often, students of color and those in low-income communities are disproportionately disadvantaged by not having access to the learning technologies they need. Today I am taking measures to close this inequitable digital divide and ensure all of our students are set up for success with remote learning.”

The number of students identified as in need of access to laptops and at-home internet is based on survey information that was submitted to the State Department of Education and Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology. The state will purchase the at-home internet access through several broadband internet companies, including Altice USA/Optimum, Atlantic Broadband, Comcast, Cox, and Charter. The personal hotspots will be covered by cellular signal through the student hotspot provider Kajeet.

The Office of the Governor, State Department of Education, Department of Administrative Services, Office of Policy and Management, and the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology will coordinate with internet companies and school districts to ensure students receive the learning devices as quickly as possible, and the form of internet coverage that meets their needs and empowers them to participate in high-quality remote learning. Likewise, internet providers have agreed to work closely with the administration and school IT directors to support households that have students who will be learning this fall.

“In order to support remote learning needs for our learners, we need to make sure they are connected,” Connecticut Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona said. “Addressing the digital divide has become our priority since a device and connection are no longer luxuries. Once connected, they must also have access to high quality content to promote learning and social emotional development. Under the leadership of Governor Lamont, our commitment remains focused on amplifying social emotional supports for students and educators, and advancing equitable access to high-quality, high-impact, student-centered remote learning anytime, anywhere.”

The State Department of Education has made social and emotional well-being and mental health supports a priority given its relationship to improving conditions for learning and ultimately improving students’ school and life outcomes. During the long period of class cancellation, the need for quality social emotional and mental health supports for students and educators has been intensified by pandemic related trauma, anxiety, and distance from the relationships formed at school. Putting a strong program of social and emotional learning (SEL) and mental health supports in place can ease the transition and mitigate issues that may otherwise occur. The department will devote CARES Act funding to supplement the development of a statewide SEL framework that will support educator professional learning and implementation of evidenced-based programs. In addition, the department will:

  • Provide professional learning through RESCs and SERC to support educators in providing social and emotional supports;
  • Provide resources to districts for delivery of general behavioral and mental health screening; and
  • Promote implementation of universal SEL curriculum/programming at the district level and secure resources for outreach or professional learning on Equity, Implicit Bias and Inclusion.

“Educational equity in the 21st century means that all students, no matter zip code or race, have access to technology resources that allow them to learn from home, on the go, and in the classroom,” Doug Casey, executive director of the Connecticut Commission for Educational Technology said. “Today’s investments take a significant step forward in closing the digital divide for learners of all ages across our state.”

The 200 hotspots will be open to the public at no cost to the user. The state will partner with the Connecticut Education Network (CEN) to utilize the fiber and infrastructure it already provides to sites in communities across the state and boost signals for the public at large to be able to access for free.

“CEN is thrilled to be working with the state to do what we do best, leverage our unique and high-quality fiber network to help Connecticut residents access reliable and fast internet coverage” Ryan Kocsondy, director of the Connecticut Education Network, said.

“At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, a huge focus for Altice USA and Optimum was ensuring that all students had access to broadband connectivity to enable them to continue their studies through the end of the school year,” Lee Schroeder, Altice USA executive vice president for government and community affairs, said. “We are proud to be working with Governor Lamont and the State of Connecticut to ensure continued connectivity for students as we head into the 2020-21 school year, and we applaud Connecticut’s approach to bring together schools, government and broadband providers to help solve the digital divide together.”

“We are honored to partner with Governor Lamont to support families as we all prepare for the back to school season,” Dennis Mathew, senior vice president for Comcast’s Western New England region, said. “As Connecticut continues to manage the COVID-19 emergency, we recognize that Internet Essentials from Comcast plays an important role in helping residents stay connected and we appreciate the commitment of Governor Lamont and his team, especially during this unprecedented time.”

“We are committed to bringing reliable, high-performance broadband internet to homes that need it most, as work-from-home and online learning has become necessary in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Juan Dominguez, vice president of sales for Atlantic Broadband, said. “We are pleased to help make this initiative possible, and will work closely with state officials and our local school districts to ensure that serviceable households with students currently lacking connectivity will have great internet backed with local customer care and professional technical support.”

“Over the last several months, Charter has taken a series of significant steps to help American families get and stay connected during the global COVID-19 pandemic,” Camille Joseph, group vice president for state government affairs at Charter Communications, said. “Charter looks forward to working with Governor Lamont to support households that have students who will be learning at home this fall.”

Districts will begin receiving communication from the state today about the process by which they will receive their laptops, broadband vouchers or Kajeet hotspots. Community sites will soon receive communication from CEN about hotspots.

[Read More]

Spring Newsletter

Ryan Kocsondy
CEN Director

We are living through extraordinary times as the COVID-19 crisis impacts us in many ways daily. With many more changes in front of us, I’d like to share a  few words of recognition and appreciation for the tremendous efforts so far.

As Connecticut’s citizens have adapted to the new work and learn from home environment, we see exceptional measures of service, collaboration, and accomplishment across the state. CEN community members are working quickly to provide products and services to facilitate remote work, compliance, and equitable access.  State university facilities have been transformed into field hospitals. Quality technology and network access solutions are needed everywhere in making these transformations possible.

CEN has also been transformed to manage all aspects of its network operation and to continue moving forward on all initiatives. Our team has been mobilized to work from home with the ability to securely access all mission critical systems. We are pressing ahead on all projects and utilizing remote tools and resources as needed. Continue to expect from the team the same responsive, effective, personal service for all of your member needs.

I am very proud of our member focused efforts through these challenging times. Stories of people’s passion and commitment impress me daily. Please feel free to share with me your stories, needs, and concerns. I can be reached at rk@uconn.edu or (860) 622-4563.

Stay connected and stay well.

View Spring Newsletter

Ryan

CEN Member Conference Postponed

CEN Member Conference Postponed
October 6-7, 2020, Hartford, CT

In consultation with CEN’s Engagement and Development Advisory Council (EDAC) and considering the circumstances related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we’ve decided to postpone the 8th CEN Member Conference to October 6-7, 2020.

Based on the latest information from the Governor’s office, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and local health departments related to the COVID-19 outbreak, including specific guidance for large events, community gatherings, and travel, we cannot risk holding the meeting and potentially putting the health of our community members, staff, and the surrounding public in danger. With no certainty on the expected duration of this health crisis, we feel it is best to postpone the event to protect all.

We will continue to promote the event, accept rolling registrations, and work with presenters and sponsors in preparation for the new October date. Hopefully by then, we can come together as a community to celebrate our 20 years of collective growth and success. Many thanks to our members and partners for all their efforts in building an expanded 2020 Member Conference program.

Please stay connected to the conference site for further updates. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause and hope you will still be able to join us!

iboss Cloud CIPA Compliant Filtering Free for K-12 and Libraries

CEN is excited to announce the recent addition of iboss cloud CIPA compliant content filtering at no cost for K-12 and libraries and at volume pricing for other members.

The addition of iboss cloud to the portfolio will update the availability of options and provide a pathway for members to support 1:1 initiatives at scale, to support multiple operating systems in your environment, and to increase visibility and reporting without having to worry about inline appliances.

To plan your path to iboss cloud, email iboss at cen@iboss.com or call 877-742-6832. Just tell them youʼre a CEN member. Visit our From the Director webpage to view the full announcement, and check our Web Filtering page on our website in the next few days for updated content.

CEN Joins DE-CIX Internet Exchange

 

CEN has joined the fast growing DE-CIX Exchange. Founded in 1995, DE-CIXʼs is the worldʼs leading interconnection platform, managing more than 9 terabits per second peak traffic. DE-CIX New York is Open-IX certified and carrier and data center-neutral. It operates more access points than any other Internet exchange in North America.

This partnership will provide CEN Members with expanded capability by shortening the network hops for improved transport efficiency. For example, CEN’s peering with Apple via DE-CIX will enable much quicker and more efficient Apple IOS updates, as well as quicker access to the entire 17.X.X.X Apple IPv4 range.

CEN works with its members to make interconnections easy, robust, and expansive. Engaging with global partners like DE-CIX demonstrates and exemplifies CEN’s commitment to providing the highest quality services and resources to our members. For more information on DE-CIX and how it could provide enhanced services to your users, please contact CEN’s Member Relations team at 860-622-4560, option 5, or getconnected@cteducation.net.

Winter Newsletter

Member colleagues,

2019 was another successful year for CEN and its community as we continue to grow with additional members and services.

The rollout of our new website and introduction of new Managed Firewall Services has been widely accepted by the membership. The focus is service to our members and ensuring we promote and support innovative and state of the art platforms. We will be commemorating 20 years of CEN at this year’s conference and look forward to your help in celebrating this milestone. Please register for the Pre-Conference Workshops taking place on the 7th and the Member Conference taking place on the 8th of May 2020. I hope you had a safe and happy holiday season, and I look forward to 2020.

View the CEN Winter Newsletter!

Regards,

Ryan

Summer Newsletter

Member colleagues,

As summer comes to a close, I’m increasingly excited about CEN’s team, products, service and enormous potential for growth.

Thank you for a successful fiscal year and for all who participated in the 2019 Member Conference this past May. Our community is vibrant, on full display at events like these, and something truly special inside Connecticut. We will be commemorating 20 years of CEN at next year’s conference and look forward to your help in celebrating this milestone.

The CEN team continues to bring value to the membership through its pursuit of excellence in the delivery of its service and product offerings. Our 2019-2024 Strategic Plan is complete, and with your help, will come to fruition over the coming years. Thank you for sharing in that ambition and for your continuous feedback on your objectives, how to improve the network, and provide even more value. We’ve organized the newsletter updates to align our shared goals and to help provide reporting on overall progress. Our membership is the true core of the network, and we look forward to hearing and sharing more!

This newsletter is a big part of our goal to improve member communication. We will be leveraging this format to share our collective success stories and to keep you updated on what is happening inside the organization and across the CEN ecosystem. Sharing these stories and collaborations across the membership makes us stronger, together. We promise to keep the information concise.

We hope everyone has had a chance to enjoy some time off over the summer months to recharge for the beginning of a new academic year and to close out the calendar year strong.

View the CEN Summer Newsletter!

Ryan