Work is underway to bring high-speed broadband to all of California's public libraries by connecting them to CalREN, a high-capacity 3,800-mile fiber-optic-based network designed to meet the unique requirements of over 20 million users, including the vast majority of K-20 students together with educators, researchers, and others in California's colleges and universities.
Connecting to CalREN
What organizations are administering the project?
Three organizations have joined together to undertake this work:
- The California State Library serves as the central reference and research library for the state government; preserves and disseminates information and provides technical assistance and development opportunities to California's public libraries. The California State Library is funded by the California State Legislature to set the direction for this project and provide oversight.
- The Califa Group is a non-profit library consortium of over two hundred libraries in California. They pioneer technology projects, negotiate discount rates for technology purchases on behalf of member libraries, and manage state-wide projects on behalf of the California State Library. Califa, acting as the administrative arm of the California State Library for this work, develops contracts with participating libraries for circuits and use of the CalREN network.
- CENIC, the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California, designs, implements, and operates CalREN, a high-bandwidth, high-capacity Internet network specially designed to meet the unique requirements of its members which include higher education institutions and K-12 public schools in the State. CENIC provides network design, procures circuits, arranges for state and federal discounts, purchases and installs hardware, and maintains and monitors network connectivity to each library.
Will our library be a part of the CalREN network or will it merely have access to the network?
Public libraries in California are members of CENIC (the organization that builds and maintains the CalREN network), and your library patrons and staff will have access to the CalREN network.
What is the difference between CENIC and commercial Internet providers?
CENIC is not a vendor, rather CENIC operates a private network (CalREN) designed to meet the needs of the education and library community. CENIC seeks input from its members on all aspects of its operations, including operation of the CalREN network.
What libraries are eligible to connect?
All public libraries in the State of California, who are members of a CLSA System, are eligible. Work began in 2014 to connect libraries to CalREN and will conclude when all libraries, who wish to be connected, are connected to CalREN.
When will libraries be able to connect to CalREN?
Per the federal rules, E-rate discounts apply to services starting July 1 of each year. The first group of libraries enrolled in the project at the end of 2014. They were connected between July 2015 and June 2016. A second group of libraries enrolled in July of 2015. These libraries were connected between July 2016 and June 2017. A third group of libraries began enrollment in July of 2016. These libraries were connected between July 2017 and June 2018. Libraries may connect prior to the July date if the library is able to cover the full undiscounted costs of connecting, both the non-recurring and monthly recurring costs.
Why should our library connect to CalREN?
Just as there are a myriad of resources available that constitute 21st Century digital citizenship, there are a myriad of benefits to a library that joins CENIC and connects to CalREN. CENIC helps public institutions achieve their goals by providing advanced networking and consulting services and delivers the highest quality technologies at the lowest cost. The CalREN network was built to provide solutions tailored to the needs of public research and education institutions across California, and now, libraries. As a non-profit network owned and governed by its members in the education, library and research communities, the members have a direct role in shaping CENIC services, products and strategic direction, creating a high level of value, transparency and engagement.
CENIC provides the most advanced technologies at the lowest cost by passing along the pricing advantages of our large economies of scale and an owned backbone network infrastructure. With a presence in all 58 counties, there is no other network like it in California. By keeping network-related costs low and predictable, CENIC helps organizations meet challenging budget restrictions, reduce program expenses, and do more for their communities. CENIC does not limit members to a one-size-fits-all solution. A tiered network approach and tailored solutions meet a diverse range of needs. Members are always able to choose the right level of services for them, with cost-efficient scalability as their needs evolve.
By connecting to CalREN, a unified statewide library network can be developed and will allow applications to interoperate in ways that would be difficult if libraries were connected to disparate network providers. These applications might include shared licensing (for both content and business applications), broad-based content sharing, cloud computing applications, and system or multi-system library cards. Additionally, CENIC is managing a statewide E-rate consortium process and accessing the California Teleconnect Fund program for the broadband services provided through this project.
How fast will my connection to the Internet be?
The current target for a library connection is one Gigabit per second (or 1 Gbps). In some cases, this Gigabit connection is to be shared among library branches. Greater speeds of 10 Gbps are also possible, and a number of library jurisdictions with multiple branches have chosen this level of connectivity. Lower connection speeds are also available, although mostly utilized in remote areas where there is simply no other option.
Can you give me some examples of increases in speed for libraries that are being connected in Year 1 (2014-2015)?
- Alhambra Public Library is going from 100 Mbps to 1 Gigabit (10 fold increase).
- San Benito County Free Library is going from 1.5 Mbps to 1 Gigabit (666 fold increase).
- Santa Clara County Library has 9 branch libraries currently connecting at 20 megabits/second each, and sharing a single 100 megabits/second link to the Internet with other county administrative uses. When connected to CalREN, these libraries will each get a Gigabit connection to the main library and the main library will get a 10Gbps connection to the CalREN backbone. Internet connectivity will no longer be shared with other administrative offices in the county.
Will the upload and download speeds on my circuit be the same?
In all cases, CENIC circuits have the same bandwidth in both directions (i.e., "symmetrical connection"). So in the case of a 1 Gigabit connection, the upload connection is 1 Gbps from the library to CalREN, and a 1 Gbps download connection from CalREN to the library.
Costs of Connecting to CalREN
What are the total costs to connect to CalREN? Will there be any additional unforeseen costs?
The costs provided in quotes, except where we've explicitly stated that there are additional costs to be determined, include the total cost to the library for new circuits before any applicable taxes and surcharges. The quotes include circuit costs and installation costs, including any special construction costs if required. A Library may need to upgrade their owned hardware to connect to CalREN. See below.
I understand that there are one time and recurring costs for the circuits. Can you explain the difference between these?
One-time costs are typically to pay for the cost of installation of service. These are costs carriers pass on to CENIC and Califa. These are typically referred to as "Non-recurring costs" or NRCs.
Recurring costs are typically billed monthly and cover the expense of carriers keeping the circuit working, including monitoring for problems, and doing repairs when something is damaged.
What about the costs of hardware a library must purchase to receive the new connection?
To take advantage of higher speed connections to the Internet, a library is likely going to need new hardware. A new router and a new firewall are commonly needed because it takes more advanced hardware to deal with a 1 Gbps data stream (connection speed) than a 100 Mbps data stream. (Sometimes the router and firewall functionality are combined into one piece of hardware.) A library may also want to upgrade the network in its building in order to allow patrons and staff to benefit fully from their new connectivity.
What if we cannot afford this hardware?
Options to assist with paying for a new router/switch at each branch include:
- A library can apply for E-rate on the necessary routers and/or switches. Please note that this option will require CIPA compliance. E-rate funding for LAN equipment is "Category 2" funding and in the past, they ran out of funds before funding Category 2. With the modernization in 2015, funds are set aside for Category 2, so funds would be available if libraries chose to be compliant.
- The California State Library offers a grant program to help pay for the one-time connectivity costs including: hardware (such as routers and/or switches), site improvements and technical consultants. More information on any current program offered can be found at: https://www.library.ca.gov/services/to-libraries/broadband/
- To reduce costs, Califa, working with CENIC and CSL, coordinates a bulk purchase of hardware from Cisco using a competitive bid process with Cisco resellers. This bulk purchase takes advantage of deep discounts, substantially reducing costs for needed routers or switches at each branch. Money obtained through the CSL grant may be used to pay for hardware obtained through the consolidated bulk purchase.
Are there costs to prepare our site for service? For example, if we choose to relocate the circuit to a server room or any other location, will there be additional costs to pay for the move?
The service provider (e.g. AT&T, Comcast, Verizon, etc.) will bring their service to the library's Minimum Point of Entry ("MPOE") and no further. In some cases, the provider can be paid to move the MPOE, but it is likely to be less expensive to run cabling from the MPOE to wherever the Library needs the service. The MPOE move or cabling cost would be the responsibility of the library.
Also if additional electrical power is required in the MPOE in order to house the hardware there, then this cost will need to be paid for by the library. However, both of these costs are eligible for grant funding through the California State Library.
How does CENIC choose the best bid to include in a quote?
Per E-rate guidelines, the lowest costs are the most heavily weighted factors. However, we also look at other important factors, such as the ability to upgrade to higher bandwidth without incurring termination penalties, ability to relocate services without incurring penalties or modifying the original contract terms, response time and credits for outages, etc. The lowest cost isn't always the same as best value. And we believe that one of the things that CENIC brings to the table is the experience, having installed literally thousands of these services, to help tell the difference.
Can we see other bids in addition to the one reflected in our quote?
The bid documents are confidential, so we can't share them broadly. However, we can, upon request, send you a list of the pricing received specific to your library.
Implementing Your Connection to CalREN
This topic is covered in more detail in a document titled Steps to Connect to CalREN, which can be found at Steps to Connect.
Our library needs two lines to connect to CalREN: one line from the County Main Library and another to the CalREN Hub. I thought the upload and downloads shared the same line. Can you explain why I need two lines?
This situation only applies to those libraries that are connecting using AT&T Switched Ethernet (ASE) service. This "cloud" networking service requires one circuit from the County Main Library to the "AT&T cloud" and then another from the "AT&T cloud" to CalREN. These are shown separately on the quote for service libraries receive; however, both MUST be present for the service to work.
I am filing for our "backup" Internet service so service is not interrupted while the CENIC connections are made. I plan to sign a month to month contract. How many months should I extend this back up?
Until libraries have successfully migrated over to CENIC, we encourage all libraries, especially those libraries who currently apply for E-rate discounts, to continue to file a separate Form 470 for existing and new Internet and voice services. It would be prudent to continue to apply for discounts on existing services until the new service is installed and operational. While each situation is different, a 12 month back-up period (extending for the entire connection period, July - June would be prudent.
Hardware to be Installed by CENIC at the Library Site
What type of hardware will we be connecting to at the CalREN connection point?
CENIC will install an Internet Router at your main library. In almost all cases, this will be a Cisco ASR router. CENIC will install and configure both ends of the link between your main library and the CalREN backbone so that CENIC can maintain the circuit and ensure its reliability.
How can we be sure it is configurable to communicate with our hardware?
CENIC's hardware uses only standard internet protocols, and will communicate with other standard hardware via copper (up to 1
Does CENIC provide IP addresses? How many per library? We currently use 2 IP addresses?
CENIC does provide public (globally routable) IP addresses upon request. You can apply for up to 32 (a /27) per library branch, but there is an application process in which you must justify your need for that many. Public IP addresses are a scarce and valuable resource, so CENIC is very careful about their use, under the direction of the CENIC Board of Directors.
Hardware Needed by Libraries to Connect to CENIC Hardware
Do we need to use Cisco hardware? We typically buy another brand.
No, a library does not need to use Cisco hardware. There are many other vendors that make hardware that will work very well. A very important consideration is the ongoing maintenance and support for your hardware. If your IT support people are used to using a particular brand and can support it well, then it is probably a very good idea to use that brand to remain compatible with their support procedures.
How do we know if our current switches and routers are compatible with the CENIC Broadband service?
IT consultants can help you assess the compatibility of current hardware or hardware you plan to purchase. Califa maintains a list of potential consultants and they are happy to share this list. Assessing compatibility can get very complicated. Most Internet switches and routers are compatible with each other in a basic sense, but that doesn't mean that you'll get the results you hope to see. So it is worth spending some time investigating this.
For example, your current hardware may work reasonably well when your Internet connection runs at 10 Mbps. It may continue to function without disruption when you have a 1 Gbps Internet connection, but you and your patrons won't see much benefit from the upgrade. So you may want to plan to upgrade several pieces of your current hardware—either right away or over time. A competent consultant can look at what you currently have and work with your staff figure out if upgrades are necessary or would be helpful.
Which firewall option is best for our library? Will any additional hardware be needed at each library branch?
This is another question that you need to address in-house with your IT support staff and/or with an IT consultant. There is no one right way to do this. Many libraries with multiple branches use only one firewall, at the main library where it connects to CalREN. Others place firewalls at each branch. There may even be some that do not use firewalls at all. Libraries that are part of City or County networks may have requirements related to those networks and these will need to be addressed locally.
What do we need to do to prepare our site for the connection?
There are a number of things you should evaluate for upgrades to make full use of your new connection. They include evaluating the:
- Security of your server room
- Heating and air conditioning
- Capacity of your current router
- Capacity of your current firewall
How can I find the MPOE (Minimum Point Of Entry) in my building?
The MPOE is the point in the building where the phone company stops being responsible for the wiring. Typically it will be in a closet or server room. It is where network service is also brought into the building. If you aren't able to locate your MPOE, you can ask your phone company to identify it for you. This may require that they schedule a site visit.
I need help figuring out how to set up my library network to take full advantage of the much higher speeds, who do I ask?
If your technical staff needs help with this (or if you don't have technical staff), Califa maintains a list of consultants that have been proven to be helpful to libraries. Email the broadband project team at email@example.com to obtain a copy of this list.
Who is our contact at Califa for invoice-related questions?
Christian DeLay, Broadband Project Manager – firstname.lastname@example.org
There appear to be a number of steps involved in the billing and payment process (Telco Provider bills CENIC, CENIC bills Califa, and Califa bills my Public Library). This may be a cause for concern with respect to possible delays in payment. At what point in the process does the Telco Provider receive its payment for the circuit costs, and what might cause that to be delayed? Do I need to be worried about this?
AT&T is paid upon receipt of invoice by CENIC, not based on CENIC having received payment from Califa or Califa having received payment from the libraries. CENIC would delay an invoice payment if CENIC disputes the amount of the invoice, in which case the payment is not considered delinquent. Additionally, CENIC is one of AT&T's largest customers in California and has developed a strong relationship with AT&T over the course of close to twenty years. AT&T would not cancel a circuit ordered by CENIC even should an invoice not be paid, for example if the payment was lost in the mail.
Will the invoices from Califa be snail-mailed or emailed to someone at our library? Do we need to let someone at Califa know who that person should be?
Califa invoices members for products and services by email. Califa already does business with and sends invoices to many Library Jurisdictions, and Califa will send the circuit invoices to the same email address already on file.
How will invoices from Califa to us for the Telco circuit be sent? Monthly, annually, or on some other interval?
The invoices will be sent quarterly in arrears.
About how long after service begins will Califa start invoicing us? For example, we have a confirmed circuit turn-up date of January 1, 2018.
Except for non-recurring costs, which are often billed in advance of service, CENIC would likely be invoiced by the Telco Provider for the January 1, 2018 installed circuit at the end of January. CENIC would, therefore, invoice Califa for your first monthly circuit costs in April, and you would receive your first bill, for services from January through March, shortly afterwards.
What is the estimated amount of the monthly invoice that my library will need to budget in order to pay the up-front costs of the service?
This information was provided during your quote review process and is listed in the contract. Your library will need to budget for paying the monthly undiscounted costs as identified in the contract. Likely in late 2016, but definitively before June of 2017, you should receive a check for the earned E-rate and CTF discounts for the prior period from November of 2015 through June 30, 2016. (Example given for Year 1 enrollment libraries)
Reliability of CalREN
What do I do if the Internet goes down at my library?
The CENIC Network Operations Center (NOC) provides a single point of contact for all inquiries regarding network services, from your on-premises network router through your site's connection to CalREN, including the health and status of the CalREN backbone itself. CENIC Operations Engineers are available to assist you 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, including holidays (24/7/365).
The CENIC NOC can be reached at:
Telephone: (714) 220-3494 (714-220-FIXIT)
For urgent problems, your site contact(s) or technical staff is encouraged to call to receive immediate assistance. If at any time you feel that you are not receiving appropriate assistance, please ask the on-duty Operations Engineer to escalate your issue to CENIC management.
Other Organizations on CalREN
What other organizations are on the CalREN network?
CENIC's Charter Associates are part of the world's largest education system and includes:
- The more than 10,000 California K-12 public schools, districts, and County Offices of Education,
- The 112 California Community Colleges,
- The 23-campus California State University system,
- The 10-campus University of California system, and
- Three independent universities: Stanford, Caltech, and USC.
CENIC also provides connectivity to other leading-edge institutions and industry research organizations around the world, serving the public as a catalyst for a vibrant California.
How do charter associates collaborate with one another using CalREN? California's libraries are being added to the fabric of education institutions already connected to CalREN. As a result, libraries will have the capability to collaborate more seamlessly with one another as well as draw on content, expertise, and opportunities from schools, colleges, and universities, extending these capabilities to individual libraries and library patrons statewide and thereby enhancing access to information, research, and credit/non-credit distance learning.
All network traffic between associates travels over the CalREN backbone directly from site to site, so that traffic never needs to traverse the commercial Internet. For example, people at different sites who share email, data, videos, live video (e.g. remote classrooms, performances, scientific sensor network data, etc.) are using a high-bandwidth, highly reliable, and private network path. Sites are also able to carry out network-intensive activities in collaboration. For example, SFJAZZ is partnering with libraries in the Peninsula Library System to have interactive performance and discussion sessions.