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Governor Schwarzenegger, Superintendent O'Connell, State and Local Lawmakers Celebrate $3.4 Million, 400-Mile High-Speed Desert Connection.

Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) Launches Coachella Valley Connectivity to California Research & Education Network (CalREN), Helps to Close Digital Divide for Educational Institutions and Provide Training for New Teachers, Nurses

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- The Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) today announced the connection of the rapidly-growing Coachella Valley area to its California Research & Education Network (CalREN) with a grant from The H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation. The $3.4 million, 400-mile high-performance connection provides Desert educational institutions second-to-none technological capability and the ability to train hundreds of future teachers, nurses and entrepreneurs through distance learning.

The announcement was made during a press conference at the Palm Desert Campus of California State University San Bernardino. It included Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, both participating by videoconference, State Assemblymen Bill Emmerson (R-Redlands) and Russ Bogh (R-Beaumont), Palm Desert Mayor Jim Ferguson, other state local elected officials and representatives from CENIC, the California State University San Bernardino and UC Riverside, as well as College of the Desert, the largest institution in the Palm Desert area in terms of student enrollment.

"This vital project will help close the digital divide that has too often cut off Inland Empire educational and research institutions from the rest of the state," said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell. "Connecting Coachella Valley to the California Research and Education Network will help make the Desert a center of educational innovation and allow us to train hundreds of new teachers and nurses for the future."

"This high-speed connection is a boon to our local community, our economy, our colleges and our long-term vision for this entire region," said Palm Desert Mayor Jim Ferguson. "It will allow educators and students to reach anywhere in the world with lightning speed. This is a significant step towards building a higher education system right here in the Coachella Valley."

"Thanks to this project, we have the educational infrastructure in place to ensure our students and educators have an open door to the best higher education resources in the world," said State Assemblyman Russ Bogh (R-Beaumont).

"The Inland Empire has some of the best educators and brightest students working and learning anywhere in the world. Now, they have access to technology worthy of their high achievement," said State Assemblyman Bill Emmerson (R-Redlands).

CENIC designs, implements, and operates CalREN, the California Research and Education Network. CalREN is a high-bandwidth, high-capacity Internet network specially designed to meet the unique requirements of these communities, and to which the vast majority of the state's K-20 educational institutions are connected. CalREN consists of a CENIC-operated fiber-optic backbone stretching the length and breadth of California to which CENIC connects schools and other institutions in all 58 of California's counties via leased circuits obtained from telecom carriers or by CENIC-owned fiber-optic cable.

Extending the CalREN backbone through the Coachella Valley area via a dark-fiber buildout was an extensive undertaking for CENIC, involving the addition of nearly 400 miles of fiber-optic cable, ten new optical amplifier sites, and new backbone hub sites at Palm Desert (located at the Palm Desert Campus of CSU San Bernardino) and El Centro, CA.

The institutions that have thus far connected to the new fiber path are delighted with the possibilities that broadband access to CalREN has laid before them.

For the UCR Palm Desert Graduate Center, the new connectivity allows them to exist "virtually" right alongside the main campus in Riverside, CA. Says Dan Szilagyi, Information Technology Manager at the UCR Palm Desert Graduate Center, "The reliable bandwidth provided by CENIC's effort allows transparent connectivity with the Riverside campus. Although the UCR Palm Desert Graduate Center is 65 miles away from UCR's Riverside campus, connectivity for videoconferencing, enterprise applications, e-mail, and phone communications allow these functions to operate as if we were co-located."

College of the Desert, with an enrollment of 10,000, has also benefited greatly from the new connectivity, which has increased its campus bandwidth by a factor of twenty. According to Dr. Maria Sheehan, Superintendent/President of College of the Desert, "This upgrade means that our connectivity is on par with that of the Cal State and UC schools! This will allow College of the Desert to provide vast new services, accessibility, and features to students, faculty, and staff, which were unavailable with our old configuration. Our upcoming state-of-the-art construction projects can now be matched by state-of-the-art technology with this important first step." With the new connectivity, College of the Desert plans to webcast college-wide events and implement campus-wide wireless access. Video-on-demand and podcasting to supplement coursework are also in future plans. Says the college's Dean of Information Services/Education Technology and Chief Technology Office Bina Isaac, "In the last one and a half months, we have doubled our usage! The possibilities are limitless."

The California State University San Bernardino Palm Desert Campus looks forward to utilizing the connectivity for their Nursing program, which will help to address a critical shortage in California's commitment to provide quality healthcare to its citizens. Coordinator of the Nursing Program at the Palm Desert Campus Donna Rane-Szostak states, "We are extremely excited that CENIC and CalREN are such a huge part of the growth of the RN-BSN program at the Palm Desert Campus. The nursing program at the Palm Desert campus is a hybrid program using the latest technology to integrate distance learning and audio/video instruction and student participation into a complete curriculum. Our campus's broadband connectivity to CENIC's CalREN will only help it to expand." Dean of the Palm Desert campus Fred Jandt Agrees. "We are so excited to have CENIC support to make this program available to nurses onsite in the Valley's hospitals."

President and CEO of CENIC Jim Dolgonas is pleased that the optical backbone of CENIC's CalREN has been extended through the Coachella Valley, and looks forward to seeing what the institutions can achieve with their connectivity, as well as the growth that it will spur for the region as a whole. "CENIC was founded to empower California's research and education community, and given that we serve the vast majority of the state's K-20 institutions, that means that CalREN was ultimately created for the benefit of all California. With the completion of this fiber path through the Coachella Valley, not only has the network itself been made even more resilient and reliable, but the entire area now has the kind of connectivity that's required to grow and be competitive in the 21st century."

About CENIC

California's education and research communities leverage their networking resources under CENIC, the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, in order to obtain cost-effective, high-bandwidth networking to support their missions and answer the needs of their faculty, staff, and students. CENIC designs, implements, and operates CalREN, the California Research and Education Network, a high-bandwidth, high-capacity Internet network specially designed to meet the unique requirements of these communities, and to which the vast majority of the state's K-20 educational institutions are connected. In order to facilitate collaboration in education and research, CENIC also provides connectivity to non-California institutions and industry research organizations with which CENIC's Associate researchers and educators are engaged.

CENIC is governed by its member institutions. Representatives from these institutions also donate expertise through their participation in various committees designed to ensure that CENIC is managed effectively and efficiently, and to support the continued evolution of the network as technology advances. To learn more, visit http://www.cenic.org/.
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Date:Oct 23, 2006
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