Link Oregon Boosts Marine Research and Aims to Close State’s Digital Divide

In 2019, the University of Oregon transitioned the long-standing Network for Education and Research in Oregon to Link Oregon. With this shift, the organization acquired a ready-made research and education network as well as a committed community and experienced engineering staff. Since last summer’s launch, Link Oregon made good progress in honing their business and operations model, refining their technology and networking strategy, aligning with leading vendors, and strengthening relationships with other organizations including Internet2, CENIC, telecoms, and broadband agencies.

Link Oregon is currently operating a pilot network segment connecting the Oregon State University (OSU) main campus in Corvallis and OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) in coastal Newport. OSU and Link Oregon partnered with Oregon-based carrier, PEAK Internet, to light more than 60 miles of dark fiber crossing the Coast Range. This initial connection has important implications.

Newport is fast becoming a key science hub in Oregon. Link Oregon’s commitment to supporting the networking needs for marine science research at HMSC also extends to assisting the growing number of federal and state researchers based in the city. Adjacent to HMSC is the base for the western fleet of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Link Oregon supports Newport connectivity for N-Wave – NOAA’s enterprise network leveraging alliances with the research network community and connecting researchers to data and resources needed to advance environmental science.

In contrast, other state regions suffer from broadband deficits inhibiting education, healthcare, Tribal services and economic development. Over the last year, Link Oregon leaders have traversed the state to meet with community broadband champions and have seen first-hand the positive impact a coordinated, state-wide educational networking platform could have for smaller school districts and rural students. Yet many areas do not yet have these capabilities. Link Oregon’s mission includes an effort to level the broadband playing field for all Oregon communities.

Governor Kate Brown has recognized that the lack of high-speed Internet poses a key barrier to economic development for rural communities. Link Oregon was among the partners that assisted city manager, Nick Green, in the remote, mountainous community of John Day, to submit a successful $6 million USDA ReConnect proposal last year. Link Oregon will continue to support the city of John Day’s leadership to develop new broadband infrastructure.

Newport and John Day are just two examples of the state’s connectivity opportunities and challenges. Link Oregon will continue their outreach to community partners statewide as they finalize the implementation of the initial network and plan for expansion into southern and eastern Oregon. Link Oregon is dedicated to making statewide connectivity a reality and ensuring a bright (and speedy) networked future for every Oregonian.