August 09, 2008
The broadband gift benefits not only the university system, but also K-12 schools via the AK20 Network, part of the state's multi-partner Distance Education Consortium. Hamilton and Rutherford made the announcement today along with GCI President and Chief Executive Officer Ron Duncan.
"This gift is absolutely essential to the university system's mission of education, research and public service," Hamilton said. "We've had a $30 million request to the state Legislature for increased broadband capacity for the last several years, but unfortunately it didn't receive the support it needed. In this digital age, the university must have a competitive level of network capacity--it's central to what we do."
"Our company completed the first diversely routed, protected fiber optic network connecting Alaska to the lower 48 states four years ago," GCI's Duncan said. "That network has become a mainstay of the Alaska economy. As an Alaska company, GCI is honored to be able to make this contribution to the university a contribution that will advance the university's research and education mission and benefit every Alaskan. What's good for Alaska is good for GCI and its employees and shareholders. We are happy to be able to give something so material back to the state upon which our success has been built."
Rutherford said the university is grateful for the gift. "It sets a wonderful example of generosity that will benefit many scientists and elementary through university students across the state."
UA's Chief Information Technology Officer Steve Smith said the broadband gift spans 10 years and provides up to 10 gigabits-per-second from Anchorage to Seattle in increments of 622 megabits-per-second, also known as an OC-12.
"This gift frees up bandwidth throughout the university system, which in turn benefits all of our campuses," Smith said. "The gift agreement includes a research component, where the university and GCI will explore working together on solving connectivity challenges that still persist, particularly in rural Alaska."
Bandwidth in cyber-infrastructure is comparable to a highway; the more lanes the road has, the more vehicles it can accommodate. By freeing up more lanes on the highway, UA as a whole can transmit and receive vastly more data and information than it currently can.
Buck Sharpton, vice chancellor for research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the system's research hub, said the increased bandwidth will help the university maintain its competitive edge nationally for federal research projects, which often require a high-degree of network capacity. UAF attracts roughly $128 million in federal research grants each year---a number that has steadily grown.
"This new capacity not only evens the playing field with the nation's other leading institutions in cyber-infrastructure, but it also heightens our ability to provide the state with timely and vital information needed to respond to earthquakes, tsunamis, wildfires and volcanic eruptions," Sharpton said.
The gift also allows the university to purchase additional bandwidth if needed, or accept a similar gift from another donor, Rutherford said.
GCI (NASDAQ:GNCMA) is the largest telecommunications company in Alaska. The company's cable plant, which provides voice, video and broadband data services, passes 90 percent of Alaska households. GCI operates Alaska's most extensive terrestrial/subsea fiber optic network, which by the end of 2008, will connect not only Anchorage but also Fairbanks and Juneau/Southeast to the lower 48 states with a diversely routed, protected fiber network. The company's satellite network provides communications services to small towns and villages throughout rural Alaska. GCI is now in the process of constructing Alaska's first truly statewide mobile wireless network, which will seamlessly link urban and rural Alaska for the first time in the state's history.
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