Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont confirmed that the U.S. Treasury Department has approved his administration’s plan to invest $70.9 million in Federal grant funding to upgrade network and cybersecurity infrastructure in the Connecticut Education Network (CEN), connect up to 170 community anchor organizations to CEN, and expand public Wi-Fi service.

CEN is a regional research and education network that provides internet services for Connecticut K-12 schools, libraries, and higher education institutions. The governor’s office said the CEN Connect plan is made up of three parts: CEN Next Generation Infrastructure (NGI); CEN Connect Municipalities, Libraries and Charter Schools; and CEN Connect Community Wi-Fi.

“Investments through CEN Connect are investments in Connecticut’s ability to deliver and support workforce development, digital government, learning, innovation, and health and human services,” said Gov. Lamont. “The CEN cyber infrastructure contributes to a healthy broadband ecosystem for Connecticut and represents the ultimate shared service platform for our anchor institutions to connect, aggregate, collaborate, and improve services across the state.”

The governor’s office also provided a broad overview of what will happen in each area:

  • CEN Connect NGI is a direct implementation project and will provide a comprehensive update to the CEN to expand capacity to support the growth in internet use, accommodate the addition of new institutional members, and serve as the attach point for high-performance community wireless;
  • CEN Connect Municipalities, Libraries, and Charter Schools is also a direct implementation project offering 97 municipalities, six councils of government (COGs), 63 libraries, and 14 charter schools fiber-based, high-capacity CEN dedicated internet access (DIA) service; and
  • CEN Connect Community Wi-Fi is a competitive sub-grant program. CEN Connect Community Wi-Fi will offer $10 million in grant opportunities to improve internet access for Connecticut residents in underserved and typically economically disadvantaged groups in urban and rural communities.

“Federal approval of CEN Connect is a major step forward in our state’s efforts to support digital infrastructure for our valued community anchor institutions and improve connectivity for residents who have been traditionally underserved,” Connecticut Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Michelle Gilman said.

Funding for the network upgrades comes from the American Rescue Plan Capital Projects Fund.

“This Federal investment in CEN Connect will update our infrastructure and support our workforce and healthcare system,” said state Rep. Jahana Hayes. “Broadband is essential, and our state has been waiting for additional bold assistance to increase access to safe modern internet service. For over two years, the American Rescue Plan has delivered and transformed our communities. This is the next step forward to the long-term goal of ensuring all Americans have strong and reliable internet connection.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs