The U.S. Department of Commerce announced this week that Pennsylvania will receive $99.6 million, one of the largest single-grant awards under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan, to build the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN).
The grant culminates the efforts of Bruce Taggart, vice provost for Library and Technology Services (LTS), and Roy Gruver, director of technology management services with LTS. The two have collaborated for the past year with top Pennsylvania research universities, including Penn State, Carnegie Mellon and the universities of Pennsylvania and Pittsburgh, as well as the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, to develop a broadband proposal using federal stimulus funds to build a high-speed state-wide network for research and education.
PennREN will dramatically increase the capabilities for data-intense research and collaboration among K-12 schools, colleges and universities, healthcare providers, and economic development partners in Pennsylvania, while connecting unserved and underserved communities to high-speed Internet.
This project will connect 60 Pennsylvania institutions in 39 counties, including universities, high schools, libraries and healthcare facilities. Lehigh will be one of 13 core network nodes strategically located throughout the state.
“This is fundamentally a statewide, high-speed network for research and education,” said Taggart. “For Lehigh, it’s going to give us high-speed access to other top research universities in the state as well as the capacity to connect virtually to top national and international research networks.
“The development of this network will be significant for faculty and students. It will support innovation in teaching and research collaborations for our students and faculty, and it could lead to new technologies, healthcare delivery systems, basic science discoveries and more.”
“The lifeblood of the digital economy”
The Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research (KINBER), a coalition of Pennsylvania colleges and universities, research and healthcare organizations and economic development entities, including Lehigh, submitted the joint application for a $99-million grant to construct and manage PennREN. The grant will be supplemented with an additional $29 million in private investment.
KINBER’s founding members include Lehigh, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, Penn State, Pitts, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the Mid-Atlantic Gigapop for Internet 2 (MAGPI) at Penn, Carnegie Mellon, Bucknell University, Drexel University, Three Rivers Optical Exchange (3ROX), the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, the Association for Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, the Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania, and EINetworks, a collaboration of the Allegheny Library Association and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.
“Broadband is a key driver for economic development, public safety, education, healthcare and job creation,” Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell said. “Without question, broadband connectivity is the life-blood of the digital economy.”
Taggart said Lehigh’s position as a core node in the new network will significantly enhance its 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.
The project should be fully operational within three years, he added.
“The PennREN project is a very strategic stimulus package project and is what President Obama’s broadband stimulus package was supposed to do: Create jobs, serve unserved and underserved communities with limited Internet access, and promote sustainable economic growth and development,” said Taggart.
“PennREN is not a ‘band-aid project.’ It will have a lasting impact on generations of Pennsylvanians by providing a statewide broadband technology infrastructure that allows Pennsylvania to grow and prosper in the 21st century.”