Access to super-fast Internet is one of the building blocks of 21st-century life. Over the next few years, that access is expected to arrive in parts of Pennsylvania that still don't have it.
An organization called KINBER
, which stands for Keystone Initiative for Network Based Education and Research Network, is in the process of assembling 1,600 miles of fiber that will form a network of high-speed Web access. When it's completed, the network will connect cities including Williamsport, Mansfield, Bradford and Lewisburg to faster Internet. All told, the network will snake through 39 counties. Its name is PennREN, short for the Pennsylvania Research and Education Network.
Jeff Reel, KINBER's executive director, explains that PennREN is meant to connect nonprofits including libraries, school districts, local governments and public broadcasting stations. These groups often lack the money to get high-speed Internet on their own, and building networks in sparsely populated areas makes little commercial sense.
"At my house, the best I can do is a 300K uplink to a satellite to get something approaching Internet," says Reel, who lives about 10 miles from State College. "That's just not acceptable in the modern world."
The first segment of the network, from Bethlehem to Philadelphia, is expected to be finished in March. The plan is for community institutions, such as colleges and hospitals, to serve as local hubs for the network. Then smaller organizations can connect to the hubs. The effort is being funded by $99.6 million in federal stimulus money, and KINBER plans to help pay for the connections through partnerships with private organizations.
Source: Jeff Reel, KINBER
Writer: Rebecca VanderMeulen