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The DC-CAN FAQ answers questions from residents, Community Anchors, and prospective last mile providers about the DC-CAN project

What is DC-CAN?

The District of Columbia Community Access Network (DC-CAN) – managed by the DC-Net program in the District Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO)—is a federally funded project that will bring affordable, value-added broadband services to over 250 health care, educational, public safety, and other community anchor institutions primarily in broadband-underserved areas of the District. It also creates a high speed middle mile network with points of interconnection for last mile service providers to deliver affordable broadband access to residents and businesses in underserved areas. With a focus primarily on Wards 5, 7 and 8, DC-CAN is the keystone in the District Government’s bridge across the digital divide.

Key points about the DC Community Access Network (DC-CAN) project:

  • DC-CAN is a District government initiative that encourages public-private partnership in the delivery of affordable broadband services to residents and businesses in underserved areas of the District (in particular Wards 5, 7, and 8)—spurring broadband adoption and economic development in underserved areas.
  • DC-CAN will create a high-speed “public highway” infrastructure to which last mile providers can connect at reasonable cost, and pass these savings on to residents and businesses in underserved areas of the District.
  • DC-CAN will offer affordable, high value broadband services to over 250 community anchor institutions that provide education, health, and public safety services throughout the District—with a particular emphasis on community anchors in Wards 5, 7, and 8.
  • DC-CAN is a $25 million program over the next two years, funded primarily through a $17.5 million grant from the Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). DC-CAN is part of a $36 million program (including $25 million in grants) to help bridge the Digital Divide within the District of Columbia.
  • DC-CAN seeks to enable private sector innovations.
  • DC-CAN is about public interest and public service.
  • DC-CAN is built using the latest industry-standards to provide best-in-class service and functionality.
  • DC-CAN is operated by DC-Net OCTO.

How are DC-CAN and DC-Net different?

DC-Net is a facilities-based Metropolitan Area Network run by the District of Columbia Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) that provides a full suite of managed, interconnection and transport services to government and public services organizations in the District of Columbia. The DC-Net network is a public safety-grade network providing reliable communication links for critical government services.

DC-Net is a program operated by OCTO and DC-CAN is a project managed by DC-Net.

What are Community Anchor Institutions?

Community anchor institutions (CAIs) identified in the DC-CAN project include public libraries, community college campuses, fire, police, and other public safety locations, non-profit public charter and private schools, non-profit health care clinics and organizations that provide health-related services such as homeless shelters and community-based counseling centers, senior centers, and public housing sites. DC-CAN will provide community anchors with access to up to 10 Gbps broadband services and applications targeted to their needs.

How will I know if my organization qualifies to receive services from DC-Net?

To receive DC-Net services you must be a government entity or you must be a 501c3 non-profit community anchor institution that provides health or education related services in the District of Columbia.

How do community anchors request information about broadband services?

If you are a government related or non-profit organization, you may be qualified to receive DC-Net services. You can request information about services by phone at 202-715-3800 or 715-3801 or by visiting the support services page.

What broadband services will be available to Community Anchor Institutions?

Initial services targeted for community anchors include:

  • Internet Access—10 Mbps to 1 Gbps symmetrical
  • Data Transport—10 Mbps to 10 Gbps
  • Voice services
    • VoIP
    • Web conferencing services
  • Wireless LAN access for voice, data and video services
  • Video conferencing, streaming, and signage

How will community anchors benefit from the DC-CAN grant?

As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, federal funding for broadband infrastructure stimulates economic growth by funding non-recurring expenses, such as the cost of fiber build out to the customer site and network equipment at the site. These costs—usually borne by the customer—often present a real hurdle to adopting broadband services. Under DC-CAN these costs are covered for qualifying community anchors. In addition, monthly pricing for high value broadband services under DC-CAN is cost-effective, providing another source of savings.

When will services become available to community anchors?

Services are available now. You can request information about services by phone at 202-715-3800 or 715-3801 or by visiting the support services page.

How will residents and businesses benefit from DC-CAN?

DC-CAN aims to spur broadband adoption among residents and businesses in underserved areas of the District. As an open access middle-mile network, DC-CAN will offer cost-effective services to organizations, local Internet service providers, carriers, and others providing last mile services to residents and businesses in the District. It will also offer incentives to these last mile providers offering services in underserved areas of the city so that savings are passed on to the end customer.

In the next few years, residents and businesses will take advantage of a wider range of options and prices for broadband services as last mile providers partner with the District to deliver affordable and innovative services.

As a resident, when will service be available to me and how much will it cost?

Last mile Internet services to residents and businesses depend solely on the last mile partner’s ability to offer services over the DC-CAN infrastructure. The District government is in the early phases of building these partnerships. Pricing for these services will be set by the last mile provider. 

For more information about DC-CAN, including service availability updates, visit DC-CAN.

What is an underserved area and what does that mean?

As defined by the Department of Commerce National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an area is underserved if contiguous census blocks have a broadband subscribership rate under 40 percent. (It defined broadband as service with a minimum download speed of 768kbps and upload speed of 200kbps.) As shown in the following map, areas in pink show an average 39.9 percent broadband adoption rate. In the District, underserved areas encompass much of Wards 5, 7, and 8, and parts of Wards 2, 1, and 6.

What do “last mile” and “middle mile” mean?

The last mile is the final leg of delivering connectivity from a communications provider to the end user. From the user’s point of view, however, this is considered the “first mile.”

The middle mile is the segment of the network that links a core network to end user aggregation points. This includes backhaul to aggregation points and to locations where lower cost services can be attained.

How will last mile providers in the District benefit from DC-CAN?

DC-CAN creates opportunities for last mile broadband service providers in the District, in particular, those interested in serving residents and businesses in identified underserved areas.
DC-CAN is a new infrastructure superhighway that will have add over 50 miles of fiber in Wards 7 and 8 alone and will pass through every ward in the District. Its robust, carrier-grade core ring provides low-cost, high-bandwidth backhaul services to last mile broadband service providers.

Key features of this infrastructure include:

  • 50-mile underground core fiber loop throughout the city—with extensive coverage in underserved wards 5, 7 and 8—enables interconnection between underserved and well-served areas.
  • Core DWDM technology capable of supporting 10 Gbps to 40 Gbps and scalable to 100 Gbps.
  • Up to 80 handhole and/or manhole meet-me locations for providers
  • Wavelength and Ethernet data transport services available.

The agreement can be month-to-month or one year or more.

How does DC-CAN tie in with other District efforts to bridge the Digital Divide?

DC-CAN enables job creation, skills development objectives by providing the infrastructure for the District’s Public Computing Centers (PCC) and Sustainable Broadband Adoption (SBA) projects, which were also awarded federal funding.

The PCC project, “DC Community Computing Resources,” or “DC-CCR,” is led by District of Columbia Public Library. DC-CCR will improve public computer center capacity so that those without computers or Internet access at home may benefit—not only from expanded access to computers and broadband, but also from training regularly offered at these centers. DC-CCR will support public computers in the District’s 26 public libraries, two recreation centers, three public schools, and one community college location.

The SBA project, “DC Broadband Education, Training and Adoption,” or “DC-BETA,” provides a full range of broadband adoption elements—from training and appropriate content to broadband-connected computers in the home—directly to underserved populations, such as those with low incomes, seniors, the disabled, at-risk youth and Hispanic populations. People who use the District’s public computer centers, improved by the DC-CCR project, may enroll in a training class under the DC-BETA project and thus graduate to a computer and Internet access in the home.