Internet connectivity jumps from 10G to 100G, boosting the University’s research capacity.
Tallahassee, Sept. 15 – Florida A&M University (FAMU) has accepted an invitation to join the Florida LambdaRail (FLR) Board of Directors, setting the stage for a tenfold increase in campus wireless connectivity and research capacity.
With its elevation to board member, FAMU intends to establish a 100Gbps connection to FLR’s advanced fiber-optic network infrastructure, providing the university’s faculty, staff, and students with lightning-fast connectivity and seamless communication channels. A FLR connection facilitates data-intensive research, supports remote collaboration, and enables the exchange of large datasets critical for cutting-edge scientific investigations.
“Florida LambdaRail opens boundless possibilities for our researchers, enabling them to connect with peers, access cutting-edge resources, and advance their critical work,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., who announced the partnership during the President’s Convocation Friday at Lawson Multipurpose Center. “Joining the board aligns perfectly with FAMU’s mission to cultivate knowledge, transform lives, and make a lasting impact on our community. We are excited about the future possibilities this collaboration holds.”
FAMU would be the first Historically Black College and University (HBCU) to provide 100G for students, faculty and staff. The move also dovetails with FAMU’s push to become the first HBCU to become an Carnegie Research 1 institution.
“FAMU will use the new computing capabilities to execute large-scale computations on materials under extreme conditions of temperature and pressure,” said Vice President for Research and a physics professor Charles Weatherford, Ph.D. “The work will be done in support of the National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The research will involve the use of machine learning on high performance computers and quantum computers.”
FLR is Florida’s non-profit research and education network that connects universities, research centers, and not-for-profit partners throughout the state of Florida. By providing advanced network infrastructure and collaborative services, FLR enables data-intensive research, supports innovative collaborations, and fosters interdisciplinary projects across various scientific disciplines.
FAMU brings a rich legacy of academic excellence, innovation, and community engagement to the FLR consortium. With a strong focus on research and a commitment to addressing the pressing challenges of our time, FAMU’s inclusion further diversifies and expands FLR’s collaborative research network.
“We are thrilled to welcome Florida A&M University to a seat on the board of directors,” said Robert Grillo, chairman of the FLR Board of Directors and vice president and chief information officer for the Division of Information Technology at Florida International University. “FAMU’s unique position within Florida strengthens FLR’s commitment to fostering research and innovation across the state. We look forward to expanding our collaboration with FAMU’s exceptional faculty, talented students, and renowned researchers. Together, we will drive forward groundbreaking discoveries, address complex challenges, and empower Florida’s research community to achieve new heights.”
In May 2022, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Internet for All, a federal investment of $45 billion to provide affordable, reliable, high-speed Internet for everyone in America by the end of the decade. The initiative is being administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA).
Internet for All has three funding pieces: the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program; the State Digital Equity Act Program; and the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program.
The middle-mile program allocates $930 million to support connections between regional fiber networks and underserved and unserved homes and businesses. A substantial portion of the funding may also be directed to supporting community anchor institutions (CAIs). Research and Education Networks (RENs) that collectively connect nearly 100,000 community anchor institutions nationwide are uniquely poised to engage with CAIs as well as community and state stakeholders to help advance their state’s broadband strategy.
In his piece 50 Ways to Love (not Leave) Your Anchor Institutions, SHLB Executive Director John Windhausen asserts that BEAD funding should support CAIs in tandem with (rather than after connecting) individual homes and businesses. Supporting these anchors may encourage more providers to participate (thus speeding up the process), and prioritizing these connections could potentially save time and money for individual states. RENs, it follows, are critical in applying funding strategically and with maximum benefit to the communities they serve.
RENs are ideal middle-mile partners in addressing the broadband needs of their local communities while collaborating with other telecommunication providers to ensure that their middle-mile strategy makes maximum use of funding (such as BEAD) for the projects that need it most. More powerful than institutions advocating for themselves, RENs are able to leverage their staff technical expertise, extensive local infrastructure knowledge, collective experience, relationships with stakeholders and legislators at state and federal levels, and a positive track record of designing scalable solutions making them an ideal partner in state broadband strategies.
Many RENs are beginning to receive or collaborate on Internet for All middle-mile projects.
MCNC, which supports North Carolina’s K-20 education, libraries, and other anchor institutions, received $11.2 million from NTIA for the High-speed Economies for Rural Opportunity, or HERO Project. This project will directly support improvements to broadband access and affordability in central and southeastern North Carolina. The total project is estimated at $19 million. No state tax dollars will be used for this expansion.
While no other members of the The Quilt received grants directly; CENIC, KanREN, Link Oregon, and Networkmaine are all involved as collaborators on awards in their states, respectively.
In California, CENIC and its purpose-built LLC, GoldenStateNet will be collaborating on the California Middle Mile Broadband Initiative – Spurs. This project plans to construct 680 miles of middle-mile fiber across 37 spurs that are part of the larger statewide network, bringing it within 5 miles of 288,000 unserved addresses and 14 Tribal entities, and within 1,000 feet of 1,124 anchor institutions.
The Kansas Department of Commerce and the Kansas Department of Transportation are working with private and non-profit partners like KanREN to create a 682-mile open-access network, with plans to connect multiple new internet exchange points. The project will support the needs of last-mile service providers, increase capabilities for anchor institutions, enable connections to unserved and underserved households, and increase competition in local markets, thereby creating more affordable service options.
An interesting three-state project funded through the Zayo Group, LLC will connect Prineville, Oregon, and Reno, Nevada in the high desert on the east side of the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges. The Zayo Oregon/NorCal/Nevada Middle Mile Project has a total project cost of $48 million and will impact three states (California, Nevada, and Oregon) with counties impacted in Deschutes, Crook, Gilliam, Morrow, Umatilla, Jefferson, Wheeler, Lake, and Klamath in Oregon; Sierra, Plumas, Lassen, and Modoc in California; and Washoe in Nevada. Link Oregon was an early supporter of this project to connect remote, chronically underserved communities in south-central Oregon, and it recently participated in a grant recognition event with U.S. Senator Ron Wyden and Zayo executives in Umatilla, Oregon. The purpose of this project is to develop a middle-mile network (645 miles) through rural areas with inadequate broadband services. The project includes 23 access points to provide ready access to local ISP partners. The network has been designed to include access points to serve underserved and unserved areas in all three states. In addition to the fiber route, the project will construct middle mile infrastructure in the form of 180-foot towers that can host up to four last-mile wireless ISPs that will provide fixed and mobile 5G wireless broadband.
In Maine, the Maine Connectivity Authority earned $30 million to fund 530 miles of middle-mile infrastructure and bring together key partners, including Networkmaine of the University of Maine System, to construct the Maine Online Optical Statewide Enabling Network, or MOOSE Net. MOOSE Net’s expansion of Networkmaine‘s optical network will deploy an open-access backbone network to enable last-mile providers to increase their coverage, reduce costs, and help fortify digital infrastructure to prevent outages and advance the competitiveness of rural communities. The 530-mile route crosses 131 communities, passing more than 11,000 unserved houses and local businesses. It will reach more than 200 community anchor institutions, including schools, hospitals, libraries, local government buildings, and civic centers.
The middle-mile refers to the portion of network infrastructure that connects the core backbone network to a local access network that serves end-users such as homes and businesses. In telecommunications this includes fiber-optic cables, data centers, and other network facilities that transmit data over long distances.
NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson calls middle-mile funding a “force multiplier” as it facilitates not only connectivity but job creation, innovation, and business development. The Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program will ensure the next generation of students, workers, researchers, and rural community members reap the same benefits as their urban counterparts, and RENs across the country are poised to drive these efforts home. Check out the NTIA’s Award Recipient Page for all projects within the Enabling Middle Mile Broadband Infrastructure Program. The page includes recipients, award totals, and locations for this grant program; also, the Awardee Recipient Map includes additional information.
The Quilt is pleased to support all funding recipients and looks forward to working with these states and organizations to implement accessible and affordable broadband internet throughout the United States.Read More...
By Louis Fox, President and CEO, CENIC
Please join us for the first in our webinar series, A National Inflection Point: The Intersection of Research & Education Networks and Sustainable Digital Equity Initiatives. This initial case study will focus on California, the world’s fifth largest economy.
Learn more here – Connecting California: From Community Perspectives to Funded Projects
COVID and The Great Broadband Awakening:
Beginning in March of 2020 with the COVID pandemic, access to broadband became a social determinant of health, education, work, and economic security. Our homes became our schools, our workplaces, and our clinics via remote education, work, and telehealth. Individuals and families without access were disenfranchised, marginalized, many cut off from their friends and families.
In this context, it became painfully obvious to policy makers that broadband Internet was a utility as essential as electricity and potable water. To address these critical inequities, the federal government, along with state legislatures, have made and are making historic investments in broadband. With money going directly to states, territories, and indigenous Tribes, there are now over 60 states and territories and 574 Tribal Nations, each organizing their own efforts individual experiments running in how to plan and implement broadband access and adoption in unique cultural, geographic, and demographic areas.
Research and Education Networks (RENs) are playing critical roles as partners and leaders with state broadband offices to efficiently utilize the federal funding opportunity to expand infrastructure for affordable Internet access to unserved and underserved locations across each state. RENs provide backbone connections for public and private universities; community colleges; K-12 schools and school districts; public libraries; museums, scientific, and cultural organizations; hospitals, clinics and specialized medical facilities; biomedical, science, space and environmental research organizations; and Tribal Nations; and, ideally, rural health clinics that need the bandwidth to work with the major hospitals in their states.
This upcoming series of Marconi Society workshops will examine the particular approaches of specific states at different stages of development, to share (early in the national process) directions taken, lessons learned, and innovations that might scale beyond state border, beginning with California’s “Internet for All” legislation and the role that the State’s R&E Network, CENIC, plays in this initiative.
R&E Infrastructure at a Crossroads
The Research and Education (R&E) infrastructure is a critical component of a national broadband plan. It complements the focus on universal access by providing a foundation for inclusion, innovation, discovery, and national competitiveness. Our national story is incomplete when diverse human potential is untapped, and competitive threats unmet. Federal investments in R&E infrastructure are a national imperative. Connecting every community college, every minority serving institution, and every college and university, including all urban, rural, and tribal institutions, empowering untapped potential, and rising to competitive challenges is possible by funding a national program of coherent, comprehensive, and highly integrated initiatives.
R&E infrastructure is more than just broadband networks. It also includes software, tools, and security resources. It provides access to computational capabilities and data, along with the necessary human expertise to integrate and use these resources for innovation, discovery, and national competitiveness.
Thirty years after the Internet emerged at research institutions and transformed the world of research and innovation, the preponderance of community colleges, minority serving institutions, and colleges and universities still lack high quality R&E connectivity, security, and collaboration tools that would allow them to participate equitably in the digital universe. We must not find ourselves in the position that the technology leader and Tribal broadband accessibility advocate, Matt Rantanen, poses: “What if the mind we need is the last mind connected?”
We know that there is talent, imagination, and the capacity for innovation in every community. What is missing in far too many communities – urban, rural, and tribal – is opportunity. Access to research and education infrastructure is now a stepping stone on a path towards a future of quality education and prosperity for all. To ensure inclusion, drive innovation, enhance competitiveness, and equalize opportunity we must:
- Connect every community college, minority serving institution, college, and university, in urban, rural, and tribal areas to a world-class and secure R&E infrastructure, with particular attention to institutions that have been chronically underserved;
- Engage and empower every student and researcher everywhere with the opportunity to join collaborative environments of the future, because we cannot know where the next Edison, Carver, Curie, Marconi, McClintock, Einstein, or Katherine Johnson will come from; and
- Ensure American competitiveness and leadership by investing holistically in national R&E infrastructure as a sustainable system.
The Way Forward
The pandemic unveiled persistent inequities in broadband access and affordability. The remote work, learning, and telehealth options that enabled some households to weather the pandemic well were not an option for those with inadequate or absent connectivity. By combining a robust universal access initiative with an equally pervasive R&E infrastructure, states may finally realize the inclusion, innovation, and competitiveness that they have sought for everyone.
In California, we have been fortunate to have forwarding-looking leaders in our research, education, library, and medical institutions. Twenty million Californians (roughly one-half of the state’s residents) have access to the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC), one of the most robust broadband research and education networks on the planet, from their schools, libraries, colleges, universities, health care institutions, and Tribes. But not all CENIC members have necessary multi-gigabit access and many of those who do are in communities where no one has broadband access: not from their homes and business, or from hospitals and clinics, or from their schools and libraries, or from their Reservations and Rancherias.
CENIC long ago recognized that joining in partnership with communities, with business and government leaders, and with our private sector telecommunications partners, was the only way to ensure that broadband access would be the rising tide that lifts all boats. As we continue our efforts to enhance broadband to our community anchor institutions and Tribal Nations, we have also joined in partnership with the State of California to ensure, similarly, that all Californians have robust broadband in their homes and workplaces. We believe that a focus on broadband equity, which is our mission, now includes ensuring that Californians have access wherever they are – at home, at work, and at school.Read More...