It keeps happening. Just when you think the government’s $700 billion stimulus package can’t have any more delicious benefits left to give us, it surprises us with more chocolatey goodness! It’s the gift that keeps on giving! It was announced a few days ago that KINBER (the Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research. Wow) has been awarded $99 million from the American Recovery and Revitalization Act to create a statewide, super-fantastic broadband network.
PennREN (Pennsylvania Research and Education Network) will be a 1,700 mile-long fiber optic broadband network covering all corners of the state. The network has the potential to reach more than 5 million people across the state, providing services to 2 million households and 200,000 businesses. PennREN will connect all of Penn State’s campuses, as well as the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon University, Drexel University…basically every research and education facility in the Commonwealth. This state-of-the-art network will provide some of the fastest connection speeds available through its 48 fiber-optic strands. Penn State President Graham Spanier commented that
This is a transformative endeavor for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and for The Pennsylvania State University. Our faculty and students will benefit greatly from the research and educational collaborations this network will spur. The network will also bring much needed broadband capacity for distance education, economic development and telemedicine, and will include areas of the Commonwealth that have been underserved historically.
While President Spanier and researchers are obviously excited, I can’t help but wonder how this will affect connection on campus. Penn State Live reports that the network will “allow for significant cost avoidance for the University, while substantially increasing network capability and capacity.” Are good things coming for on-campus Internet? Will connection in the HUB cease to suck? Will we see campus-wide wireless connection? Will student bandwith limitations be raised even higher or, dare I say it, removed?
PennREN is still in its infancy, but I think the potential is there for this to be a great application of the stimulus funds. Promoting research and Internet connectivity across the Commonwealth is exactly the kind of step forward we need to be taking and exactly the kind of progress that will be felt throughout the state.