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MIDDLE-MILE NETWORKS A Research Network Grows in Pennsylvania Thanks to a broadband stimulus grant, anchor institutions across Pennsylvania will be able to connect and collaborate using a statewide research and education network. Tight integration between network layers makes the network flexible and cost-efficient. By Masha Zager ■ Broadband Communities N ot long ago, Pennsylvania was one of only a few states without a research and education network – a serious problem for its educational institutions in general and particularly for those in the state's 22 remote, under- served counties. As soon as the broad- band stimulus program was announced, state educators saw an opportunity to remedy that lack. Seven large univer- sities, along with a number of associa- tions that represent educational, health care and research institutions, quickly formed a coalition they called the Key- stone Initiative for Network Based Edu- cation and Research, or KINBER, and began planning a network. In 2010, the National Telecommuni- cations and Information Administration awarded KINBER $99.7 million – the sixth largest broadband stimulus grant – to build the 1,600-mile Pennsylvania Research and Education Network, or PennREN. PennREN will deliver com- petitively priced networking services to universities, colleges, K–12 schools, libraries, public media organizations, health care organizations and other an- chor institutions. Nearly 70 Pennsylvania institutions are slated to be connected directly to the fiber optic network with broadband speeds of between 10 Mbps and 10 Gbps; many more will be close enough to the network to connect to it through their last-mile providers. In fact, according to the NTIA, PennREN will be able to The new Pennsylvania Research and Education Network will link 70 educational institutions, research centers, health care providers and other institutions across the state – and allow many more to connect through last-mile providers. offer wholesale services to last-mile pro- viders that will enhance broadband ac- cess for more than 2 million households, more than 200,000 businesses and nearly 1,700 additional anchor institutions. Jeff Reel, executive director of KIN- BER, explains, "We've had active con- versations with a number of last-mile providers. … Te ones we've had the op- portunity to sit down and talk with are interested and willing to engage with us as an opportunity to provide additional capabilities to the people they already serve. If they have a customer that is a library or health care provider, now [that institution] can tie into our state- wide resource to meet other members of the same group." In addition, Reel says, KINBER will be able to provide back- haul for services such as mobile data that About the Author Masha Zager is the editor of BROADBAND COMMUNITIES. You can reach her at masha @bbcmag.com. 36 | BROADBAND COMMUNITIES | www.broadbandcommunities.com | AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2012 might not have been economically pos- sible to deliver in those areas before. CROSS-SECTOR COLLABORATION In addition to providing high-speed con- nectivity to the Internet and to Internet2 (the national research and education network), PennREN will help member institutions work collaboratively across sectors – for example, by allowing a hospital to participate in a university research study or by giving high school students a chance to take college courses or use specialized library resources. Bruce Taggart, vice provost for li- brary and technology services at Lehigh University and one of the project found- ers, commented at the time the grant was awarded, "PennREN is not a 'Band-Aid project.' It will have a lasting impact on