Idaho’s Education System Ramps Up High Speed Connectivity

Boise– Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed legislation (S 1344) supporting increased bandwidth for the Idaho Regional Optical Network (IRON).  Idaho’s high speed, fiber optic backbone serves the state’s unique education, research, health care, and government needs.  The IRON network will be upgraded to 100 gigabits per second statewide, allowing for enhanced data exchange and educational opportunities, and direct interaction between the state’s colleges and universities, health care facilities, Idaho National Laboratory and government agencies.

“Our state’s four-year higher education institutions and community colleges, as well as their students are the greatest beneficiaries of IRON, so it makes sense for the higher education budget to include support for the increased bandwidth,” said, Representative Wendy Horman (R-Idaho Falls), member of the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance Appropriations Committee.

Idaho’s colleges and universities will have expanded capability to simultaneously share instructional programs, modelling and simulation, virtual laboratories, infrastructure, and more.

“Ultimately, this is about investment in a modern workforce,” said Brent Stacey, President of the IRON Board of Directors.  “The more cutting-edge hands on training and education we provide students in Idaho colleges and universities, the better prepared they will be to enter a dynamic workforce.  This is true for students in continuing education programs or those pursuing a certificate or degree,” Stacey continued.

The bandwidth upgrade will be supported by Idaho National Laboratory at a cost in excess of $2 million.  Legislation signed by Governor Otter authorizes the State of Idaho to pay for the ongoing maintenance of the upgrade at a cost of $800,000 per year.  The investment is part of the state’s funding of Idaho’s college and universities budgets.

Senator Dean Mortimer (R-Idaho Falls), a member of the Idaho Legislature’s Joint Finance Appropriations Committee and Chair of the Senate Education Committee said, “Idaho will see the benefit of this investment; as we see our students enter the workforce more qualified.  We need the IRON upgrade so our students have access to a 21st century education regardless of where they are in the state. The increased access to academic and career technical education programs offered through Idaho’s universities, community colleges and dual credit courses will benefit our students and the state.”

For over 10 years, IRON has provided the infrastructure for reliable, high-speed access and connectivity across Idaho. As a rural state with vast geographical divides, the advanced, secure, high-capacity network is essential for Idaho’s education, research and health care centers. The increased capacity allows Idaho’s educational and research communities to compete for large federal grants and new national research centers where requirements for bandwidth, data security and network redundancy are set at a high standard. It also provides dedicated fiber-optic resources to achieve technical data transfer and storage objectives that would otherwise be unavailable in our state.

“I want to thank the many individuals and organizations who supported this proposal, including Governor Otter, the members of the entire legislature and in particular the members of the Joint Finance Appropriations Committee, the State Board of Education, our college and university presidents, the Idaho National Laboratory and the IRON Charter Associates,” said Stacey. “It was impressive to see the broad support for IRON across the state.”

About the Idaho Regional Optical Network, Inc. IRON (www.ironforidaho.net) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation established in 2007 as a cooperative effort between Boise State University, Brigham Young University – Idaho, Idaho State University, University of Idaho, Washington State University, the State of Idaho, the Idaho Hospital Association, and the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). IRON provides essential connectivity at speeds up to 100 gigabits, supporting research, education, health care, economic development and state and local governments. IRON, like 40 other Regional Optical Networks across the country, provides connectivity to the Internet, and to Internet2, the nation’s advanced research and education broadband network (www.internet2.org).

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