Harrisburg – The Obama Administration today awarded $99.6 million in federal stimulus funding to the Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research (KINBER), a coalition of Pennsylvania colleges and universities, research and health care organizations and economic development entities that submitted a joint application for the construction and management of a robust, statewide broadband network as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, to be supplemented with an additional $29 million in private investment to establish the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN).
When completed, the fiber optic cable network will extend nearly 1,700 miles through 39 Pennsylvania counties—including 22 currently considered unserved or underserved based on their access to affordable broadband services.
"This project represents an extraordinary collaboration among our public and private universities, healthcare providers, economic development specialists and other public sector members to develop a network that will provide open access to a state-of-the-art broadband system at affordable cost," said Dr. John C. Cavanaugh, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. "Our universities are excited by the opportunities this system will provide, not only to our students and faculty, but also to our surrounding communities.”
“We’re extremely pleased that the Obama Administration recognized the transformative power of the KINBER proposal,” said C.R. “Chuck” Pennoni, interim president of Drexel University, a founding member of KINBER. “This broadband network represents the best use of stimulus funding. In addition to creating jobs, it will grow the potential for the Commonwealth’s universities to educate Pennsylvanians through distance learning. It will also facilitate research collaborations in both the public and private sectors that can lead to new technologies, medical treatments, basic science discoveries and more.”
“This stimulus funding for PennREN presents an exciting opportunity for Pennsylvania health care providers to more effectively share vital clinical information and provide telemedicine services,” said Carolyn F. Scanlan, president and CEO of The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania. “With this critical support, PennREN will eventually serve as the conduit to interoperability between health care providers and the Pennsylvania Health Information Exchange (PHIX), and the Nationwide Health Information Network (NHIN).”
“Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges look forward to working with our education and health care partners to extend this network across the Commonwealth,” said Diane Bosak, executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges. “We believe it will significantly enhance opportunities for our students and faculty.”
“As our member institutions continue to find ways to collaborate and leverage their resources, this project will prove to be a substantial way in which we can improve access and choice in Pennsylvania’s college and university marketplace,“ said Tim Alexander, vice president of finance and administration for the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is one of only 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 state’s leading research universities to access and share critical information throughout the United States and the world.
PennREN will reach every region of the Commonwealth, 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 across the Commonwealth.