Penn Outreach to Benefit From Statewide Broadband Network Funded With Federal Stimulus Dollars

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Media Contact:Julie McWilliams | | 215-898-1422February 19, 2010

PHILADELPHIA –- The University of Pennsylvania is among Pennsylvania institutions of higher education whose educational outreach, through its Mid-Atlantic Gigapop for Internet2 – or MAGPI -- facility, will be enhanced through the construction of a new statewide broadband network, made possible through federal stimulus funding.

The $99.6 million National Telecommunications and Information Administration Grant was awarded to the Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research, a coalition of colleges and universities, research and health-care organizations and economic-development entities in the state, of which Penn is a founding member. The grant, awarded as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, will be supplemented with an additional $29 million in private investment.

The coalition submitted a joint application for the construction and management of a robust, statewide broadband network called the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network, or PennREN, which will link education, health care and economic development entities.

“The support and creation of PennREN will help the University of Pennsylvania and our partners in education, health care and the private sector to better serve and engage with communities throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Penn President Amy Gutmann, said. “By extending broadband communications throughout the state, we open the door to exciting new academic, research and economic opportunities, and Penn is proud to participate as one of the founding members of this network.”

When completed, the fiber optic cable network will extend nearly 1,700 miles through 39 counties, including 22 that are currently unserved or underserved based on their access to affordable broadband services.

Pennsylvania is one of a handful of states without a high-speed optical network serving its higher-education and health-care institutions, which has prevented the expansion of distance learning and other educational opportunities, has delayed the universal availability of telemedicine and has limited the ability of many of the commonwealth’s leading research universities to access and share critical information throughout the United States and the world.

The proposed network will reach every region, providing access and services to anchor institutions that will have the potential to serve more than 5 million individuals in more than 2 million households and 200,000 businesses. Initially, it will include 13 primary network facilities and approximately 50 secondary locations. The network will provide the capability to connect colleges and universities, public institutions, regional networks and last-mile providers.