Terms and Definitions

CENIC: Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California. Advancing education and research statewide by providing the world-class network essential for innovation, collaboration and economic growth. The nonprofit organization operates the California Research and Education Network (CalREN), a high-capacity 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 other vital public-serving institutions. CENIC’s Charter Associates are part of the world’s largest education system; they include the California K-12 system, California Community Colleges, the California State University system, California’s Public Libraries, the University of California system, Stanford, Caltech, and USC. CENIC also provides connectivity to leading-edge institutions and industry research organizations around the world, serving the public as a catalyst for a vibrant California. 

CENIC provides broadband connectivity for the K-12 community among all 58 counties, as well as facilitates Internet access to schools and districts. The statewide network makes it possible for school districts to collaborate with one another across the state as well as connect to higher education, peered networks, and the commodity Internet.

The E-rate Program is a Federal program that supports connectivity, or the conduit or pipeline for communications using telecommunications services and/or the Internet. The Federal government provides California schools with discounts ranging between 20% to 90% on services and equipment used to access the Internet, such as high speed data lines. The federal government makes this program available to ensure that students in every school, and in particular schools with high concentrations of poor students, have access to the Internet and to education technology. The E-rate Program is part of the Universal Service Fund and is funded by a surcharge on telecommunications services

E-rate Consortium:  The statewide consortium for the California K–12 High Speed Network (K12HSN) is led by CENIC, under contract with the Imperial County Office of Education.  The CENIC E-rate Consortium applies for E-rate discounts on the circuits that create the statewide network for California’s K–12 Schools.

Letter of Agency: A Letter of Agency (LOA) is a legal document whereby one agency gives authority for another agency to act on its behalf. As it pertains to the Statewide CENIC E-rate Consortium, a school district or county office of education, also known as a Local Education Agency or LEA, signs a Letter of Agency to join the Consortium. By doing so, CENIC, who contracts on behalf of K-12 for circuits that create the statewide network, is able to seek E-rate discounts on those circuits. These are different than any circuits or other telecommunications services that LEAs contract for separately and, therefore, no overlap or conflict is created between the Consortium E-rate application and those applications of individual LEAs. The Letter of Agency authorizes CENIC to use the LEA’s student enrollment data to obtain discounts for the statewide network.

The California Teleconnect Fund (CTF) is a California program administered by the California Public Utilities Commission to provide additional discounts to schools, libraries, hospitals and community based organizations for telecommunications services. The CTF is funded by a surcharge on residential phone bills and has provided over $50 million to eligible entities in California.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Statewide CENIC E-rate Consortium

Q1. What are CalREN, CENIC and the California K-12 High Speed Network?

A1: CalREN is the statewide network that links schools, district offices, county offices of education and colleges and universities to one another and provides access to the Internet. The Corporation for Network Initiatives in California (CENIC) built and operates CalREN. The California K-12 High Speed Network facilitates the participation of nearly 9,000 K-12 entities in CalREN and receives state funding as well as E-rate and California Teleconnect Fund monies to support the network. CENIC procures the telecommunications services that support the Network, and therefore serves as the lead applicant for California's statewide E-rate consortium. Approximately 86% of all school districts in California currently connect to CalREN through the California K-12 High Speed Network. Technology leaders in each county office of education (COE) are working to support school and district use of the network.  

Q2: What’s in it for our LEA (local education agency / district) if we join?

A2: As the consortium receives discounts on its network costs those savings are set aside for support and improvement of the California K-12 High Speed Network. By signing the Letter of Agency and joining the consortium, you allow California to receive greater levels of E-rate discounts on the statewide portion of the network, thus leveraging the state funding and helping to ensure on-going support to continue this sound fiscal model for providing statewide access to fast and reliable Internet resources.

Q3: Why the Letter of Agency?

A3: Under E-rate regulations, the consortium lead, which is CENIC, must have a signed Letter of Agency (LOA) from each of the LEAs that CENIC lists on its Form 471 as being eligible consortium members. Those LOAs must be acquired by the time the Form 471 is filed. For that reason, the October 1, 2015 deadline is crucial. Your timely response will enable the data from all consortium members to be processed for the upcoming deadline to file the E-rate Form 471 for the statewide consortium, the particulars of which fill more than 1,300 pages.

Q4: Will this interfere with our own E-rate or CTF applications?

A4: No. The discounts being sought are for circuits for the statewide portion of the California K-12 High Speed Network (or backbone) that districts do not own or control. In E-rate terms, CENIC is the billed entity and the consortium lead, for discounts on network telecommunications costs that are serving public K-12 education. You, as a consortium member, will be a beneficiary of the discount savings realized by CENIC. The discounted services are telecommunications, so those LEAs which may now have a cost-sharing arrangement in place for Internet access to downstream eligible entities are not in conflict with the E-rate regulations under the CENIC consortium because CENIC cannot resell telecommunications. Also, since CENIC is only applying for telecommunications discounts, no CIPA compliance issues are raised.

Q5: What liabilities does the district incur by signing the Letter of Agency?

A5: The district is incurring no liabilities beyond those the district already incurs by taking part in E-rate discounts. Under E-rate, the district makes certifications (FCC Forms 470 and 471), and this LOA merely reaffirms those same certifications. The district is re-certifying to CENIC that the district is "E-rate compliant." In other words, if the district submits its own E-rate application, the district has already certified those conditions which must be met to be in the CENIC consortium. Therefore, it is anticipated that all award recipients will be E-rate compliant. In the remote case that a consortium member falsely certifies information on the CENIC LOA, the consortium may have to remove that district from the discount totals received.

Q6: Are there any LEAs that should not sign the Letter of Agency?

A6: Yes, if an LEA is not connected to the K12HSN network via the K12HSN node site in the county (usually the COE but in some cases a school district within the county) the LEA does not need to sign an LOA. However, since every K-12 public school district in California has the opportunity to connect to the California K-12 High-Speed Network, every K-12 public school district in California is permitted to submit an LOA.

Q7: Isn’t the California K-12 High Speed Network competing for E-rate dollars, thereby reducing the amount available to us?

A7: Of the federal E-rate program's available funding, approximately $3.9 billion annually, the California K-12 High Speed Network's request for telecommunications discounts will amount to only about two tenths (0.2%) of one percent. This amount is negligible compared to many current larger requests from other states and large districts.

Q8: What if our LEA has virtually nothing in place?

A8: First, see Q6. If you plan to provide the necessary components and can so certify, you may join. If you have virtually nothing and have no plans to provide the necessary components, you should not submit a Letter of Agency to CENIC. If you have no plans to connect to the K12HSN, but would like to learn more about the benefits of doing so, then please contact us for further discussion.

Q9: What about Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) compliance?

A9: There is no CIPA compliance obligation created by an LEA's membership in this consortium. Under E-rate, the CENIC application is for telecommunications only, which carries no CIPA compliance requirements. 

Q10: Is there a cost to join the consortium?

A10: There is no cost to join the consortium, and there is no cost for service from the California K-12 High Speed Network at one of its K-12 nodes. The only costs for an LEA are the telecommunications connections between the node and the LEA - these are known as the "last mile" telecommunications costs.

Q11: If these FAQs still don’t answer my questions, who do I contact?

Angela Jones, K12HSN Outreach
Phone: (760) 312-6158
E-mail: ajones@icoe.org