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Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grants for K-12 Schools Recognized with CENIC Innovations Award

In recognition of the significant effort to bring advanced broadband capacity to K-12 schools in California, the Broadband Infrastructure Improvement Grant (BIIG) program will receive the CENIC 2018 Innovations in Networking Award for Educational Applications. 

Project leaders being recognized are: Teri Sanders and Luis Wong, K-12 High Speed Network (K12HSN); Jerry Winkler, California Department of Education; and Patricia de Cos, California State Board of Education.

As a result of the BIIG project, California's most remote public schools are overcoming barriers to Internet access and being connected to the world-class California Research and Education Network (CalREN), the high-performance broadband network operated by CENIC.

Dr. Mary McNeil, Superintendent of the Needles Unified School District, applauds the significance of this effort. "Bringing fiber across the desert has given our district office and six school sites a stable and reliable high-speed connection that is no longer impacted by weather elements. The instability and inconsistency of our previous connection prevented our schools from fully implementing technology to support academic programs. Thanks to the upgrade, we are implementing a wide array of new individualized instructional programs, which have a significant impact on student achievement. We are using online benchmark assessments and have purchased textbooks with many online components. Schools are now able to offer more electives through individualized online programs, and our students have access to online college and career readiness programs."

Several years ago, the California Legislature and the Governor's office recognized the need for all K-12 public schools to have high-speed broadband to implement the Common Core State Standards and improve teaching and learning. Investments of $26.7 million in 2014-15 and $50 million in 2015-16 were provided by the Governor and Legislature for this initiative. 

"Internet access has become a perquisite to our children's ultimate scholastic and future success. Expanding access to this modern-day necessity in underserved and often rural areas lacking adequate infrastructure, like those in the district I represent, will help bridge the disparity gap barring our most vulnerable communities from achievement. I applaud this grant project and its goal of enhancing connectivity and affording more California students the opportunity to expand their academic bandwidth and attain their maximum potential," stated Assembly member Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella).

Work is well underway to upgrade Internet connectivity to over 350 schools that have historically been hard to reach due to geography and lack of fiber infrastructure. Most of these schools will receive a symmetrical broadband connection of 1 Gbps, and more than 75% of upgrades will employ fiber-optic solutions, thereby setting them up for increased capacity in the future. More than 150,000 California students will benefit from the connectivity upgrades over the course of three rounds of BIIG funding.
This greatly enhanced connectivity will facilitate learning and bring these public schools into the cutting edge of classroom technologies. "I can now have an entire class on Chromebook computers, accessing reading and language arts materials. Comprehension questions, critical thinking, and communication with parents have all improved. Students can use their computers on a daily basis for writing, research, note-taking, and other essential aspects of their academic work. I can run an after-school tutoring program utilizing an online standards-based tutorial that can individualize and accelerate student learning," said Corey Hansen, a teacher in the El Tejon Unified School District.

Identifying and implementing connectivity solutions for underserved schools and districts has been a collective effort by a broad community, including the California Department of Education, K12HSN, the California State Board of Education, and CENIC. These organizations worked closely with advisors in Sacramento from the Department of Finance and the Governor's Office, as well as commercial service providers, equipment providers, and third-party contractors and subcontractors.

Louis Fox, President and CEO of CENIC added, "CENIC's involvement began with an advocacy effort that led to support from the Governor and, subsequently, to the California Legislature's farsighted investment in BIIG. We are now deeply involved in implementation of this initiative. The schools included have gone from being the least-connected to some of the best-connected in the state, bringing opportunity to educators and students and their families, regardless of where they live. The next critical step in this effort will be to leverage these investments to ensure that all community anchor institutions in rural California have broadband access."
The CENIC Innovations in Networking Awards are presented each year at CENIC's annual conference to highlight the exemplary innovations that leverage ultra-high bandwidth networking, particularly where those innovations have the potential to transform the ways in which instruction and research are conducted or where they further the deployment of broadband in underserved areas. The CENIC conference will be held March 5 - 7, 2018, in Monterey, California


About the K-12 High Speed Network (K12HSN) : www.k12hsn.org
K12HSN enables educators, students, and staff across California to have access to a reliable high-speed network, which can deliver high-quality online resources to support teaching and learning and promote academic achievement. K12HSN led the BIIG project, designing the strategy for implementation of the grant program and designing and carrying out the needs assessment.

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