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IUP to Be Hub Site for PennREN Statewide Broadband Network

Indiana University of Pennsylvania has been selected as one of thirteen hub sites that will anchor the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN) project, a statewide fiber optic network.

“This honor demonstrates the quality and strength of IUP’s information technology infrastructure, staff, and leadership,” Dr. Tony Atwater, IUP president, said. “We are proud to be playing a lead role in this special initiative.”

PennREN will extend some 1,700 miles through thirty-nine counties, with the potential to provide a high-speed Internet backbone to more than five million residents in more than two million households and 200,000 businesses.

The network will also provide the capability to connect colleges and universities, public institutions, regional networks, and last-mile providers across the commonwealth. Pennsylvania is among only a few states that currently do not possess such a network.

Other PennREN hub sites among Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities are Clarion and Slippery Rock. Institutions of higher education were chosen as hub sites because of their strong presence in the potential service areas.

Each hub site will host Ethernet switch, hardware that joins multiple computers within one local area network, and other networking equipment.

“This project represents an extraordinary collaboration among our public and private universities, health-care 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 Dr. John C. Cavanaugh, PASSHE chancellor. “Our universities are excited by the opportunities this system will provide, not only to our students and faculty, but also to our surrounding communities.”

“Currently, entities in our region, like IUP, that need to reach the greater Internet must lease expensive connectivity to Pittsburgh,” Chief Information Officer William Balint said. “This results in added financial burden and limited bandwidth. PennREN addresses both of these factors and will provide IUP with a direct, very high-speed connection to the Internet and to specific research and education networks. For example, researchers at IUP will be able to access the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center as if it were located on campus.”

According to Balint, PennREN’s function will be similar to what the Pennsylvania Turnpike does for transportation.

“The Internet equivalent of the turnpike will run right through the IUP campus,” Balint said. “Other entities may eventually connect exits from here.”

“The addition of this much-needed broadband infrastructure will permit IUP faculty, students, and researchers opportunities for interaction that are not possible without PennREN,” Paul Grieggs, coordinator of Information Technology Services, said. “As a hub, IUP will also serve as a PennREN connection point to entities such as education, government, and health-care facilities within the region.”

On February 18, President Barack Obama’s administration awarded $99.6 million in federal stimulus funding to the Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research for the project.

KINBER is a coalition of Pennsylvania colleges and universities, research and health-care organizations, and economic-development entities that submitted a joint application for the construction and management of a robust, statewide broadband network.

In addition to PASSHE, KINBER’s founding members include the Association for Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, Bucknell University, Carnegie Mellon University, Drexel University, and EINetworks, a collaboration of the Allegheny Library Association and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

KINBER members also include the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, Lehigh University, the Mid-Atlantic Gigapop for Internet2 (MAGPI) at the University of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, Pennsylvania State University, the Three Rivers Optical Exchange (3ROX) at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.