NRENs and Schools
Introduction: e-Schools Network NPC (“ESN”) is a Cape Town-based non-profit company that has provided Internet, email hosting and help desk support services to Schools in South Africa for many years. Recently the writer has been assisting ESN with a Project to formalise and expand its long-standing reseller relationship with TENET, in which TENET is the upstream provider for some of ESN’s service offerings to Schools. This paper offers insights derived from the Project about how NRENs can serve Schools. Schools are not usually an NREN’s primary beneficiaries: The primary purpose of most NRENs is to provide advanced networking services, including high-speed connectivity and above-the-network services, to higher education and research institutions, especially to enable and support scholarly research, and also to support teaching and learning. By contrast, primary and secondary educational institutions (here called “Schools”) and even post-secondary vocational training institutions often do not qualify for an NREN’s services. Some NRENs in the Alliance have programs that enable Schools and/or post-secondary institutions to access the Internet more affordably. One such is KENET’s School Connectivity Project, which started in 2014. TENET acts as an upstream provider to three “schools networks” – specialised operators that provide Internet services to schools. In addition, TENET’s SABEN Project is systematically connecting and providing Internet services to public Technical Vocational Education and Training Colleges (“TVET Colleges”). Collaboration between e-Schools Network and TENET’s SABEN Project: The inspiration for the ESN Project came from TENET’s SABEN Project Manager, Arno Hart. He knew that TENET needed to focus on the universities and research institutions, and lacked both capacity and mandate to take on large numbers of Schools and TVET Colleges as individual customers. Arno realised that as regards their comparative levels of (a) campus infrastructure, (b) requirements for bandwidth, above-the-network services and help desk support, and (c) budgetary capacity, Schools and TVET Colleges are markedly different from universities but quite similar to each other. Consequently the SABEN Project and ESN could jointly deploy, use, and bear the costs of local access networks to connect Schools and TVET Colleges to SABEN Access PoPs on the TENET network. TENET could provide bulk upstream services at such SABEN Access PoPs, which ESN and SABEN would customise and resell to Schools and TVET Colleges respectively. ESN’s existing Help Desk operation could be extended to provide support to TVET Colleges as well as to schools. Collaboration Agreement: ESN and TENET are now negotiating a formal Collaboration Agreement to govern the collaboration sketched above. Reseller Agreement: ESN and TENET are also negotiating a long-term Reseller Agreement to govern their upstream/reseller relationship. Disclaimer by the writer: I am currently a non-executive director of ESN, and since 31 January 2013 have had no formal relationship with TENET. ESN and TENET have both granted me broad permission to write about the Project. However I have no mandate to represent either ESN or TENET, and specifically declare that the observations, opinions and errors of fact in this abstract and the paper are mine and mine alone.