September 13, 2010

RI Awarded $21.7 Million Grant to Boost Broadband Network

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to improve broadband speed and services, Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation today announced that Rhode Island has been awarded a $21.7 million federal Recovery Act grant to offer affordable middle-mile broadband service in Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Rhode Island’s Ocean State Higher Education Economic Development Administration Network (OSHEAN) will use this federal funding to improve broadband access for as many as 50 community institutions and expand high-capacity broadband services for higher education, research, remote healthcare, and economic development and job training uses.

OSHEAN is planning to build the BEACON 2.0 network, a new fiber-optic backbone to connect community anchor institutions and offer interconnection points for local broadband providers in all five counties in the state, as well as Bristol and Plymouth Counties in southeastern Massachusetts. The network would serve 14 university and community college locations, including the Community College of Rhode Island, New England Institute of Technology, the University of Rhode Island, and the Naval War College. The project also plans extensive engagement with public safety entities, such as the State Police, to enable rapid data and video transfer.

“Improving Rhode Island’s broadband infrastructure is a smart investment that will help deliver greater broadband speed and innovation to homes, businesses, and classrooms throughout the state,” said U.S. Senator Jack Reed, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S. Representative Patrick Kennedy, and U.S. Representative Jim Langevin in a joint statement. In March of 2010, the delegation sent a letter supporting OSHEAN’s request for Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (BTOP) grant funding.

“Our members have been working together for almost a decade on ways to provide the advanced broadband needs of our colleges, universities, hospitals, courts, state and local governments, and schools and libraries. This grant will ensure our region’s students have data speeds that are second to none, and that we have a key piece of infrastructure for our emerging knowledge economy,” said George Loftus, President & CEO of OSHEAN. “We are all extremely grateful to the Rhode Island federal delegation for steering this to a successful conclusion.”

As many as 830,000 people stand to benefit as well as 8,000 businesses. In addition to the over 200 jobs this project will create in fields like construction, project management, and network design, it will also provide a foundation for future economic growth and job creation.

The project will entail constructing 339 miles of new fiber and incorporate 90 miles of existing fiber to facilitate more affordable and accessible broadband service for up to 349,000 households and 8,000 businesses by enabling local Internet service providers to utilize the project’s open network. It will also leverage a Round One Public Computer Center (PCC) grant to OSHEAN, which intends to provide more than 600 computers and 10 mobile computer centers to 71 library branches in the state.

OSHEAN is a consortium of non-profit organizations dedicated to the development of a communications infrastructure for Rhode Island’s research, educational, and public service community. OSHEAN currently has 30 members, mainly in Rhode Island but also in Massachusetts, and provides a variety of services for its members, currently operating a 612-mile educational network.

OSHEAN project partners include: Brown University; Care New England Health System; Community College of Rhode Island; CharterCARE Health Partners; State of Rhode Island Division of IT; New England Institute of Technology; Rhode Island Network for Educational Technology, Inc.; United States Naval War College; Fibertech Networks, LLC; and Northeast Research and Education Network.


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