Fiberoptic research link wins $1.2m grant

Plans for high-speed fiberoptic links connecting colleges in New Hampshire and extending into additional networks elsewhere in northern New England have received a major boost with the announcement of a $1.2 million National Science Foundation grant to support building the fiber path.

The new infrastructure is expected to greatly increase the research efforts being conducted at the colleges.

The funds will create new linkages among higher education institutions in New Hampshire, including the University of New Hampshire, Plymouth State University and Dartmouth College, to help support collaborative research and education initiatives regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Funds are being awarded through the NSF’s EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) Office’s Research Infrastructure Improvement Program Track-2 grant.

UNH, which hosts the New Hampshire EPSCoR Office, is the grant recipient. The University System of New Hampshire operates the current network, which serves its four institutions and provides Internet and connectivity services to the Community College System of New Hampshire and several K-12 schools, libraries, public service centers and public health and safety organizations.

The grant will, in part, help advance larger efforts to develop a regional optical network that will have significantly greater bandwidth speed and help address current and future bandwidth demands, said Scott Valcourt, UNH’s director of project management and consulting services for information technology.

“This research and corresponding network development will thrust New Hampshire and the Northeast region into the international research stage with the ability to collaborate with cyber-enabled tools and resources in ways that have not yet been possible,” said Valcourt. “That research will have other economic development and quality of life benefits for New Hampshire citizens.”

Tom Franke, USNH’s chief information officer, said current capacity “constrains” research being conducted at, for example, the Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space at UNH, the Northern New England Computing Grid that is led by Dartmouth, and the Plymouth State University Meteorology Program.

He said the new fiberoptic path “will also continue to the University of Vermont, creating another significant opportunity for research collaboration.”

The majority of the funds will be used for 12 fiber strands from Manchester to Plymouth to Hanover, the electronic equipment to operate the fiber network, and support for student participants in the algae bloom studies taking place in the NECC states. — JEFF FEINGOLD/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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