By summer’s end, the Triangle’s universities, schools, hospitals and government offices will have new internet links that can move data 10 to 100 times faster than a state-of-the-art residential connection can.
Duke University and MCNC, a nonprofit communications network, are about a month to six weeks away from completing a 110-mile fiber-optic network that circles between Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, RTP and Cary.
Installing it is costing the two organizations about $10 million. They’re splitting the cost and the work 50-50.
Such backbone connections are really “the interstate highway of internet connectivity here,” said Jean Davis, CEO and president of the non-profit that started life in 1980 as the Microelectronics Center of North Carolina.
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Her organization, based in Research Triangle Park, operates the N.C. Research and Education Network, a statewide, 2,600 network of high-speed connections that links universities, community colleges, K-12 school districts, government offices, hospitals and health clinics, and other key institutions.
The new fiber ring here in the Triangle will do the same thing, replacing existing connections with new cable that as electronics know-how advances should be able to handle even faster speeds than those that are already possible, Davis and Duke Vice President for Information Technology Tracy Futhey said.
On campuses like Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University, “we’ve had basically unlimited bandwidth for our own students and faculty and staff” to support their data-heavy research and teaching, Futhey said, adding that the idea is to make that more widely available in the region.
Residential service in the Triangle will remain the domain of private-sector operators like AT&T and Spectrum. Even for school systems, the new fiber will provide the “head end” connection, with each district responsible for connections and speeds at their individual schools.
Gigabit-speed connections are the present state of the art in residential service. Once the ring is on line, the sites that link it it will have connections capable of moving data at 10 gigabits per second and even 100 gigabits per second, Futhey said.
As far as construction, Duke is handling the northern half of the ring, including the connection to its own campus. MCNC is handling the southern half, which includes links to RTP.