February 26, 2010
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
SRU serves as node for statewide expansion of broadband service
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University has been selected to serve as a node, or hub, for the $130,000+ Pennsylvania Research and Education Network. The $130,000+ project will bring more than 4,000 miles of fiber optic networks statewide allowing for affordable, enhanced broadband services to a variety of users.
The National Telecommunications and Information Administration announced Pennsylvania's $100,000 grant in federal stimulus funding last week as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The remainder of the project's costs will come from matching funds.
"Our role in the project will be to provide space and a service agreement with the network system allowing Slippery Rock University to house data equipment that will service our region of the state," said Simeon Ananou, SRU associate provost for information and administrative technology services.
The new system, expected to take 24-36 months to complete, will make use of the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network for the design, construction and management of fiber optic networks statewide. The network will offer affordable, enhanced broadband services to pre-K through 12 and higher education systems, health care networks, libraries, state and local governments and workforce/economic development entities.
Ananou said a prime benefit of the system is that it will provide broadband service to businesses throughout the state, and in particular those in the region. He said details on how businesses would tap into the system are not yet firm, but typically would be done through a regional service provider.
"The overall plan is to bring everyone online with high-speed, broadband, affordable service," Ananou said.
"SRU will serve as one of the 13 core nodes, which means some equipment serving the network will be housed on campus. In partnership with PennREN, we will help maintain that equipment," he said. The exact location for the equipment has not yet been determined, but Ananou said it would require no more than one or two racks of data equipment space.
"The major benefit is that the connection speed will be much faster than what most people have now," Ananou said. "It is an optical network, hardwired, with very fast connection speed. It will be a benefit to small and mid-sized businesses that are currently, or soon will be, connected to the Internet," he said.
"It is a good move, because of what I call 'accessibility and affordability' - access to information will be key for many businesses, and affordability makes it possible. Slippery Rock University will be the catalyst to providing the access for regional businesses," he said.
PennREN, through its operating entity, KINBER (the Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research) will serve as coordinator for the construction and management of the statewide fiber optic network.
Officials backing the program have said the need for a cost-effective networking infrastructure far exceeds what any single entity could procure on its own. The partners identified in the original proposal lack sufficient capital to construct their own networks and/or the ability to charge fees at a rate high enough to sustain a system once it is built, according to the plan's executive summary. The project has been developed to be a catalyst for stabilization and future growth in several important segments of the economy of the commonwealth, including higher education, health care and workforce development.
PennREN will use the Recovery Act funds, matched by contributions in excess of 20 percent of the total project cost, to construct the network. By aggregating the service needs of the partners, it will have the ability to negotiate rates lower than those now available
The PennREN network is to reach every region of the commonwealth with more than 44,000 square miles of coverage. The network will provide in excess of 4,082 miles of direct access to an estimated 5,159,780 individuals in 2,047,442 households and 204,193 businesses within the 10-mile radius of the community anchor institutions.
Other node anchor institutions are: the University of Scranton, Lehigh University, Philadelphia Collocation facility, Penn State Hershey, D & E Collocation facility, Level 3 Communication Collocation facility, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Allegheny Center Mall, Penn State/Behrend, Clarion University, Penn State Dubois and Bucknell University.
The institutions of higher education were chosen because of their strong presence in the potential service areas and their willingness to permit all-hours access by nonemployee staff. Each core node will host an Ethernet switch and optical transport equipment. The core nodes are supplemented by more than 50 local nodes, which will not have PennREN-controlled equipment, but are intended as a mechanism to allow broader access to the network via dark fiber.
PennREN has established relationships with a number of commercial partners to offer a menu of services to subscribers. Through an agreement with a fiber optic construction company, PennREN will have 48 strands of fiber optic cable that encompasses nearly 1,696 route miles within the commonwealth. Two strands of fiber will yield more than 100 Gigabytes of capacity.
Two other commercial partners manufacture optical and switching electronics and will enable PennREN to offer Private Wavelength Services and Shared Wavelength Services.
By choosing one of these options, subscribers will have the option to: create their own statewide infrastructure that reaches areas where such a capability has not been possible or cost prohibitive; assign dark fiber pairs in point-to-point configurations; enjoy significant economies of scale through the deployment of "managed services" for entities that require full state, partial or adjoining region access to reach their objectives or combine with other groups to benefit from shared wavelength services.
When completed, the fiber optic cable network will extend nearly 1,700 miles through 39 Pennsylvania counties - including 22 currently considered unserved or underserved based on their access to affordable broadband services. The PennREN network will reach every region of the commonwealth with more than 44,000 square miles of coverage. The network will provide in excess of 4,082 miles of direct access to an estimated 5,159,780 individuals in 2,047,442 households and 204,193 businesses within the 10-mile radius of the community anchor institutions.
"This project represents an extraordinary collaboration among our public and private universities, healthcare providers, economic development specialists and other public sector members to develop a network that will provide open access to a state-of-the-art broadband system at affordable cost," said John C. Cavanaugh, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. "Our universities are excited by the opportunities this system will provide, not only to our students and faculty, but also to our surrounding communities."
Initially, PennREN will provide Internet access to its members through existing relationships with Cogent (through MAGPi in Philadelphia), and Sprint and Global Crossing (through 3ROX in Pittsburgh).
Additional service providers can be readily added because of the PennREN nodes at carrier hotels in these two cities. PennREN subscribers will be able to connect to any service provider with a connection at any of the 13 primary backbone or local nodes on the network.
Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.