Connecticut Education Network (CEN) provides more than a network of vital infrastructure and digital connectivity. It is a network of people and organizations extending into each and every Connecticut community, connecting anchor institutions (CAI) that serve all citizens. In 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated a global shift to remote applications, our members provided insight on how CEN could assist in a time of crisis. CEN utilized its leadership role to solve problems and provide resources to our membership community in numerous ways.
Early in the pandemic, CEN participated in the Governor’s Rapid Broadband Deployment Group to accelerate bridging of the digital divide for CT’s students and underserved citizens. This resulted in the Everyone Learn’s Initiative, providing funding for 150,000 Chromebooks to K-12 students, home broadband connections through cellular and cable providers, and walk-up/drive-up Wi-Fi hotspots operated by CEN in partnership with our members. The governor later introduced broadband legislation to more permanently address the digital divide issues though universal service, new connectivity standards, and improved conditions for greater broadband investment.
Working closely with our advisory councils, CEN hosted town halls to help members adapt to the crisis and quickly transformed our in-person conference into the virtual CEN UNconference series. The UNconference included member-focused sessions on topics such as: Keeping Students Safe at Home, No-Cost Cyber Security Tools and Resources, Data Privacy and Contact Tracing, Network Recommendations in the Age of COVID-19, and more.
1:1 & Student Safety
CEN partnered with Securly and iboss to provide K-12 and library members options for CIPA filtering and student safety. Supporting 1:1 student-to-device initiatives became reality almost overnight and now span every grade level. Securly provides full visibility into student’s online activity, coverage and security wherever the device is in use, and scans in real-time AI-based notifications for nudity, bullying, self-harm or violence. The iboss cloud services, extended to members at no additional charge, provides CIPA compliant safeguards, students-at-risk monitoring, and remote classroom management.
With the sudden shift to remote work and learning, Connecticut K-12 schools, colleges, and universities had to quickly transform their teaching and learning models. With many schools choosing to run a hybrid classroom schedule, bandwidth demands increased substantially. CEN’s Bandwidth Bonus Program provided K-12 members with more bandwidth quickly to meet these demands with minimal impact on their operating budgets.
CEN continues to expand its membership base and connectivity services for existing members. In 2020, membership grew by 26 to 649, or 4.2 percent, over 2019. Additionally, 20 new connections were built to serve new locations for existing members.