February 18, 2010

The Ellen Clarke Betrand Library

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VIDEO: Brief video commentary by CIO Param Bedi about the significance of this network

By Tom Evelyn

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Bucknell University will serve as a hub for a high-performance, statewide broadband network that will increase the capabilities for data-intense research and global collaboration by universities and health care researchers across Pennsylvania while also connecting underserved communities throughout Pennsylvania to high-speed Internet.

The Obama Administration today awarded more than $99 million to the Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research (KINBER), a coalition of Pennsylvania colleges and universities, research and health care organizations and economic development entities, including Bucknell, that submitted the joint application to construct and manage the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN).

The National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) grant, awarded as part of the American Recovery and Revitalization Act, will be supplemented with an additional $29 million in private investment.

Covering 1,700 miles
When completed, the fiber-optic cable network will cover nearly 1,700 miles through 39 Pennsylvania counties, including 22 that are currently not served or underserved based on their access to affordable broadband services. It will be the largest network funded by the NTIA.

"The development of this network will be significant for faculty and students at Bucknell, enabling them to bring the world to Bucknell and take Bucknell out to the world," said Bucknell President Brian C. Mitchell. "But it is equally significant that we are bringing robust broadband capacity to rural areas which historically have been left behind and opening up unprecedented opportunities for high-tech collaborations for everyone involved. This grant has the potential to transform our region of the Commonwealth."

Bucknell Chief of Staff Dave Myers and Chief Information Officer Param Bedi led an effort to secure the funding for the project and to include the University as a major partner in its implementation and as the site of one of the network's core nodes.

Enhancing University's capabilities
The network and Bucknell's access as a core node will significantly enhance the University's capabilities in data-intense research, high-performance computing, video conferencing, telemedicine, Internet2,collaboration with international students and faculty, and real-time access to remote resources, said Bedi, who also is a member of the KINBER board.

"Bucknell has one of the most innovative faculties," Bedi said. "I'm confident that once they are presented with the opportunity to collaborate with other academic, research and medical partners using this high-speed network, they will create opportunities for students that are unparalleled in higher education today. Bucknell is also uniquely positioned in the state to act as a catalyst for regional development and ensuring that this valuable technology reaches the underserved. This project will be a tremendous enabler for The Plan for Bucknell in creating opportunities for strengthening the academic core, enhancing diversity and internationalization efforts, and building bridges with the local communities"

The new network has the potential to facilitate research collaborations that could lead to new technologies, medical treatments, basic science discoveries and more.

Access and choice
"As our member institutions continue to find ways to collaborate and leverage their resources, this project will prove to be a substantial way in which we can improve access and choice in Pennsylvania's college and university marketplace," said Tim Alexander, vice president of finance and administration for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania is one of only a few states without a high-speed optical network serving its higher education and health care institutions. The lack of such a network has prevented the expansion of distance learning and other educational opportunities, delayed the universal availability of telemedicine and limited the ability of many of the state's leading research and liberal arts universities to access and share critical information throughout the United States and the world.

PennREN will reach every region of the Commonwealth, potentially providing access and services to more than 5 million individuals in more than 2 million homes and to 200,000 businesses. Initially, it will include 13 primary network facilities, including Bucknell, and about 50 secondary locations. The network will provide the capability to connect college and universities, public institutions, regional networks and last-mile providers across the Commonwealth.

Founding members
KINBER's founding members include Bucknell, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Mid-Atlantic Gigapop for Internet2 (MAGPI) at the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, Drexel University, Lehigh University, Three Rivers Optical Exchange (3ROX), the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, the Association for Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, and EINetworks, a collaboration of the Allegheny Library Association and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

KINBER is an independent, nonprofit corporation. The proposed network was endorsed by more than 25 state and regional organizations.

Contact: Division of Communications