Virginia Will Expand Access to High-Speed Networks

By Nicole Hemsoth

May 19, 2006

Virginia's K-12 schools, museums and libraries will be among the first in the nation to connect to both the National LambdaRail and Internet2 — providing better access to educational and research resources worldwide. Through a new program co-sponsored by a group of Virginia research universities — including the University of Virginia — and the Virginia Community College System, schools, museums and libraries connected to NetworkVirginia will be able to connect to either NLR or Internet2 or both at no additional cost.

NetworkVirginia is a successful collaborative high-speed network project that already provides access statewide. The National LambdaRail is the latest national network for research and education that goes beyond Internet technology. Virginia universities have been in a lead role for development of NLR.

“It provides enormous capacity to support scientific research for the nation's top research universities, supercomputing centers, and federal research laboratories,” said Robert Reynolds, vice president and chief information officer at the University of Virginia and chair of the Mid Atlantic Terascale Partnership.

Internet2 is a national organization focused on high-performance network technology for education and research. Internet2's Abilene network links more than half the nation's colleges and universities and 35 state education networks for a total of 46,000 institutions of research and education nationwide, providing high-performance networking which enables applications like DVD-quality videoconferencing and access to advanced tools such as remotely controlled electron microscopes.

Both networks offer tremendous capacity. Abilene provides the research and education community with reliable, high-performance network services at speeds 10,000 times faster than DSL. NLR is even faster, with the ability to support the capacity of 40 Abilene networks simultaneously with room to grow.

But speed isn't the total story. “These networks, particularly NLR, use new technology to provide far greater flexibility and control to support high-end multimedia and very demanding scientific applications,” said Erv Blythe, NLR board member and vice president for information technology at Virginia Tech. “And the economics of the NLR model are very compelling,” he added.

“The availability of research, educational content and advanced capabilities through Network Virginia for all education partners placed Virginia at the head of the class,” said Glenn DuBois, chancellor of the Virginia Community College System. “This advancement will improve access and delivery of crucial education and training throughout the commonwealth.”

The Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Fairfax County is the first Virginia K-12 school to connect to NLR. TJ students have already been working with coursework in supercomputing and advanced network protocols directly relevant to NLR and Internet2.

Faculty members at TJ and Virginia Tech are developing ideas to augment these programs and expand access to opportunities ranging from distributed performing arts education to instruction in distributed supercomputing for high school students statewide.

“Virginia students will gain access to technology and hands-on educational opportunities previously available only to advanced students at elite universities,” said Tammy McGraw, director of educational technology at the Virginia Department of Education.

“National LambdaRail is pleased with the leadership of our university members in Virginia in broadening access to the K-20 (kindergarten through graduate school) community,” said Tom West, president and CEO of NLR. “I am particularly intrigued with plans to integrate high performance computing and networking technology into advanced high school curricula.”

Louis Fox, director of the Internet2 K-20 Initiative, said, “Internet2 has been providing advanced networking for the nation's K-20 community for many years and has been successful in bringing advanced educational programs to Virginia. Through the use of Internet2's advanced networks, students across the state have been able to participate in cutting-edge experiences like Megaconference Jr., a project that uses advanced videoconferencing technology to bring together thousands of students in elementary and secondary schools from around the world for an all-day learning conference.

“Also, students can receive live undersea exploration demonstrations from remote locations with famed oceanographer Bob Ballard, take master music classes from world-renowned instructors or use remote-controlled instruments to dissect a biology specimen from 1,000 miles away,” Fox said. “Leveraging Internet2 technology and our vast network of resources and partners throughout the world, the opportunities are endless for students to expand their educational and cultural horizsons.”

Several Virginia universities are working together with the Virginia Community College System, the Virginia Department of Education and vendor suppliers Sprint and Verizon Business to co-sponsor this initiative. University participants include the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, George Mason University, Old Dominion University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech. These institutions are members of the NLR-related Mid Atlantic Terascale Partnership together with NASA and the Southeastern Universities Research Association, who also are sponsors. And the Virginia Department of Education is working with Virginia universities to help advance Virginia's K-20 National LambdaRail and Internet2 program.

Sprint Nextel and Verizon Business provide the advanced network services that make up NetworkVirginia, which offers low-cost broadband network access statewide. For this project, Sprint has contributed a high-speed link that will tie NetworkVirginia to an on-ramp to NLR and Internet2. Verizon Business is providing local access via NetworkVirginia to the K-12 schools. In addition, Verizon Business is providing direct high-speed broadband connectivity for Mid Atlantic Terascale Partnership to access the National LambdaRail broadband network.

Virginia's K-20 National LambdaRail and Internet2 program is led by the Institute for Connecting Science Research to the Classroom. Schools, libraries and museums interested in participating may contact John Wenrich, associate director of the institute, at [email protected], or Jeff Crowder, Virginia Tech Communications Network Services project director, at [email protected] for more information.

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Source: University of Virginia

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