NECC brings fiber optic cable to Upper Valley

by Sam Rauschenfels | 11/1/10 11:00pm

A new leg of a high-speed fiber optic cable will transmit high bandwidth internet to Hanover from Burlington, Vt., starting in February 2011, according to a University of Vermont press release. The upgraded network which is capable of transmitting data 35 times faster than Dartmouth's network will benefit College faculty who transmit large data files to other institutions, as well as Hanover residents, who will have access to a different branch of the cables, according to Ellen Waite-Franzen, vice president of information technology and chief information officer.

The fiber optic network is the result of a collaboration between Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island and Delaware, who have come together to form the North East Cyberinfrastructure Consortium, according to Judith Van Houten, chair of the NECC executive board. The NECC received over $17 million in awards from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation for their efforts to help institutions share files more easily, according to the press release.

No fiber optic network currently exists throughout large regions of New England, preventing researchers from sharing large files quickly, according to the press release. Meanwhile, files of one terabyte and larger have become common in many research fields, according to the release.

The NECC is creating a fiber network "in what was once a black hole for fiber," Van Houten said in an announcement on Oct. 28.

The network will have a redundant ring design, meaning that if part of the network were to fail data could easily be rerouted around the failure and reach its destination, Van Houten said.

Forty eight fiber strands along the New Hampshire portion of the network will be reserved for use by rural communities through the FastRoads project, according to Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin.

FastRoads aims to provide modern high speed internet access to 44 communities around the Upper Valley, which currently have limited or no access to high speed internet options like cable or DSL, Griffin said.

"Jobs, school, personal interest dictate that we have access to high speed internet," she said.

FastRoads plans to "light" the Hanover community with fiber optic internet and other services wired directly to homes and businesses, with the exception of those on the eastern side of Mount Moosilauke, Griffin said. Homes and businesses east of the mountain will most likely only benefit from a wireless component of the new network, she said.

Access to high speed internet at home is a "real problem for faculty and staff," if those individuals live more than two miles away from the College's campus, a problem Griffin said the new fiber optic network would address.

Griffin referred to Hanover as a "classic example" of an N.H. community that needs a high speed network. Even those residents who currently have access to high speed internet currently may benefit from the new network not only from a drastic increase in speed, but also from an increase in service providers, as well as increased competition which could drive down prices, Griffin said.

The leg of the network connecting Hanover to Burlington should be completed in February 2011, and network implementation for FastRoads will take place this spring, Griffin said.

Griffin said the FastRoads project has sought to bring a fiber optic network to the area for 10 years in order to provide widespread broadband access and bring more providers than the two currently available in the area.

"What's important to point out is that we've been working on this for almost 10 years," she said, noting that much work remains to be completed.

The Dartmouth community may not notice a difference on campus because the connections the College has now "are pretty robust for normal use," Waite-Franzen said in an e-mail to The Dartmouth.