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CENIC, Tech Center Address Broadband Needs Statewide

April 23, 2020

California broadband mapWith students, faculty, and staff now working from off-campus locations due to COVID-19, access to cloud-based systemwide student applications such as Canvas and CCC MyPath may be hampered in some rural areas of California that are poorly served by broadband internet service. Students in these areas are at a disadvantage in this crisis.

Colleges and public libraries are encouraged, when practical, to leave campus Wi-Fi on so that students might get better connectivity through the California Research and Education Network (CalREN) network if they are able to locate themselves nearby.

CalREN is a high-bandwidth, high-capacity network that consists of 3,800 miles of fiber owned and managed by CENIC, the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California. CENIC consists of charter members from the University of California, California State University, the California Community Colleges and K-12, Stanford, California Institute of Technology, University of Southern California, and the California Public Libraries.

A partnership between CENIC and the CCC Technology Center, with support from the Chancellor’s Office Digital Innovation and Infrastructure Division, provides:

  • Primary connections at all colleges and districts to the CalREN for data, internet access and video.
  • Diverse secondary/backup circuits at college and district sites.

Diverse backup circuits to colleges are critical for ensuring that the internet is available 24/7 as “fiber cuts” are common during construction projects and loss of the internet can shut down a college for days.

Future-proofing the Network

Following the last recession, many colleges no longer had backup circuits, and many circuits were saturated and could not meet the 30-percent year-over-year increase in traffic demands brought on by the proliferation of connected devices and rich data applications.

To address the near-future bandwidth demand, the Tech Center and Chancellor’s Office lobbied for funding to upgrade the network starting in FY16-17. Today, all California community colleges have backup circuits and, of the 327 circuits that connect college campuses, 258 have been upgraded. It is expected that these upgrades will continue through FY21-22 at which point the network should have sufficient capacity for at least 10 years at current annual demand acceleration.