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Indiana’s I-Light to Build, Manage Network for First 2020 Presidential Debate

When the spotlight falls on the University of Notre Dame as host of the first presidential debate of the 2020 election season, I-Light will be there. As Indiana’s research and education network, I-Light has a starring role in this high-profile democratic tradition by providing all the connectivity for the event. The debate at Notre Dame will be the first in the 2020 election series. It will take place on Sept. 29th in the Purcell Pavilion of the Joyce Center in South Bend.

“The heart of democracy is addressing significant questions in open, reasoned discussion that will inform voters as they prepare to cast their votes,” said Notre Dame president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, in a university-issued news release. “Standing apart from the glitz and spin of modern campaigns, the presidential debates are that solemn moment in our national life when candidates are invited to discuss seriously the central issues before us.”

In order to present such discussion to the American electorate, whether via television, the Internet or radio, Notre Dame needs a reliable, secure network to transmit information. In fact, the Commission on Presidential Debates takes this so seriously that they require debate-hosting institutions to provision a new network completely separate from the current campus network. This practice helps prevent connectivity disruptions and cyberattacks that could thwart the debate.

Since 2001, the I-Light network has provided reliable, high-speed network connectivity to nearly every college and university in Indiana. Powered by the Global Research Network Operations Center (GlobalNOC) at Indiana University, I-Light is a collaboration of higher education, government, and private-sector broadband providers working together to accelerate teaching, learning, and research across the Hoosier State.

I-Light was a natural fit for Notre Dame based on its years of membership within I-Light. Today, I-Light provides two diverse 100G links to Notre Dame for their campus academic and administrative needs as well as to support the research needs of the campus. For the new debate network, I-Light will provide engineering expertise to install the network as well as on-site engineering during the debate to handle any potential issues.

Tom Johnson, I-Light network architect, will manage the team of engineers building the network. “This kind of project is our bread and butter, so to speak,” he said. “My team has the tools and expertise to work around problems, and we’re providing fully redundant connectivity – provisioning the network to redundant routers and paths – as an added measure of protection.”

“It is an honor to be seen as a trusted partner to Notre Dame,” said Marianne Chitwood, I-Light director. “It is what we strive to be to all our members, and building the debate network is a perfect example of being called upon to provide this support.”