KINBER Connects Keystone State to the World

The Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research (KINBER) is a non-profit membership organization and member of The Quilt that is comprised of education, health care, economic development, libraries, public media and other non-profit organizations in Pennsylvania devoted to fostering collaboration through technology.

KINBER envisions the day when every individual, community and organization has fair, ubiquitous and comprehensive access to educational, research, employment, health care, cultural and social networking opportunities that improve the quality of life and contribute to the vibrancy, sustainability and economic stability in the commonwealth.

In February 2010, KINBER was awarded a $99.6 million grant by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to design, build and manage a 1,600-mile broadband network connecting community anchor institutions and reach unserved or underserved counties. Three years later, the construction of the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network, or PennREN, was completed. Earlier this year, seven additional nodes were added to the original PennREN footprint to reach into even more rural areas of Pennsylvania.  Network access points are now in 51 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties with initial connections in more than 70 locations.

PennREN provides advanced data networking to non-profit organizations and fosters collaboration between Pennsylvania- based organizations for value-added services such as realistic high-definition video, real-time videoconferencing, and data sharing for education, research, health care, workforce development, government and economic development. The collaborative environment also provides opportunities for member institutions to share best practices, content and programs.

KINBER Executive Director Wendy Huntoon said the nonprofit uses half of PennREN’s 48 strands of fiber for its member organizations and leases the other 24 strands of fiber to satisfy their open access requirement under the federal grant.  A connection to PennREN also allows access to Internet2, a national high-speed network with 93,000 community network hubs, providing opportunities for live internet videoconferences and symposia, digital archiving, and distributed teaching and learning. KINBER will extend access to Internet2’s high-performance network characteristics to higher education and other community anchor institutions throughout Pennsylvania in support of data-driven research and technology projects.

Now that the network backbone is a reality and constantly evolving, KINBER continues to look at growing their service offerings to possibly include adding on-net resources supporting capabilities such as storage, disaster recovery and  computing clusters by engaging in public-private partnerships and with other potential resources, such as The Quilt.

Huntoon said The Quilt is a valuable resource that fosters collaboration among the advanced regional networks nationwide and enables the adoption of best practices and innovative solutions.

“I am inspired by The Quilt’s commitment to the common good of all its members, promoting ‘delivery of networking services at lower cost, higher performance and greater reliability and security,’” said Huntoon. “It is this sensibility that drives and governs our philosophy at KINBER.”

The Quilt CEO Jen Leasure said KINBER is a game-changer in Pennsylvania and they have the leadership and plan to help its members explore all sorts of collaboration possibilities — not just between colleges and universities but also among other anchor institutions such as K-12 schools, libraries and health care.

“We think KINBER is a tremendous asset for economic development in Pennsylvania, and we are happy they are members of our organization,” said Leasure. “PennREN opens the door for community anchor institutions in Pennsylvania to collaborate with others in new ways with more connectivity than ever before; not only to other institutions in Pennsylvania, but to institutions across the country.”