July 19, 2011


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By Julia Ferrante

LEWISBURG, Pa. - Regional leaders will discuss plans and opportunities for a statewide broadband network during a WKOK Roundtable broadcast, 9 to 10 a.m., Sunday, July 24.

Newsradio 1070 WKOK host Mark Lawrence will facilitate the discussion, which will focus on ways the $128 million network, set for completion in spring 2013, can help attract high-tech business and economic development, academic research and other opportunities for the region, said Robert Luff, director of communications for the local chamber, who helped plan the event.

The panelists include Param Bedi, chief information  officer at Bucknell University; Jim Baker chief of the information technologies group for the state economic development group SEDA-COG; Bill Geise, owner of the Geise Associates information technology firm and a member of SEDA-COG's broadband committee; and Charlie Ross, president and CEO of the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Enhancing Capabilities
Bedi said he hopes the broadcast will better inform regional entities and local communities, and give them ideas for leveraging the high speed network for local school districts, public libraries, economic development entities, hospitals and universities. The network will significantly enhance the University's and regional entities' 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. Bucknell will serve as a "core node" or hub in the network, housing infrastructure to provide access to organizations and residents in the region.

"We hope this discussion will get people talking about the opportunities we will have in the region in the next year and a half," said Bedi, a board member of 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.

Affordable access, economic improvement
In February 2010, the Obama administration awarded more than $99 million to KINBER to construct and manage the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN). The National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) grant was awarded as part of the American Recovery and Revitalization Act and is supplemented with an additional $29 million in private investment.

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.

Pennsylvania is one of only a few states without a high-speed optical network serving its higher education and health care institutions. The network will make those entities more competitive for federal research grants, which in turn will promote economic development and job creation, KINBER officials have said.

Contact: Division of Communications