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Illinois invests in ICN, future of the state’s workforce

It’s been a year since Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s capital budget included $20 million to strengthen the Illinois Century Network (ICN).  This critical investment has ensured that Illinois remains competitive in the national and global economy with a highly-educated workforce. 

The ICN provides internet and intranet connectivity for thousands of sites statewide. It ensures high availability for cloud based content, disaster recovery services, data, video and audio communications. The ICN owns or leases approximately 2,100 miles of fiber throughout Illinois and interconnects with multiple regional, public and private networks. To build the workforce of tomorrow, it is necessary that K-12 and higher education students and faculty have access to first-class digital tools such as the ICN’s secure and reliable high-speed broadband network. 

The $20 million investment provides support for important network capacity upgrades and capability enhancements such as 600 Gbps backbone links that enable flexible provisioning. This allows ICN to support big data transfers between university researchers, their scientific instruments, and fellow research collaborators within Illinois, across the country, and the world. The upgraded network backbone supports multiple 100 Gbps links and the ability to flexibly provision data transfers separately and securely over unique waves (light frequencies).   

The funding also enhances secure internet access for K-12 students through a dedicated centralized firewall. This means students participating in 1:1 device programs can access as much internet as required for their digital learning objectives and be assured that it is “clean” as the centralized firewall keeps K-12 student data separate and secure from other network traffic via a dedicated virtual private network. Lastly, the investment allowed for upgrades of network interconnects providing direct access to cloud exchanges for ICN connected institutions so that confidential student information never has to be transferred over the public internet. 

“Engineering the ICN for our kids is incredibly motivating. We’re always striving to ensure Illinois students have the best possible learning experience when accessing the Internet, whether for research or distance learning,” – ICN network architect, Frank Walters.

Owning and operating its infrastructure, from the fiber in the ground to the routers and switches at ICN points of presence, and having full control over its purchase decisions, allows ICN to provide services specific to its customer groups, such as K-12 and higher education. ICN’s customer focus and ability to provide unique and targeted services to Illinois’ community anchor institutions helps ensure Illinois remains at the forefront of the national and world economy.