by Joe King
NIU Outreach Centers in Rockford and Hoffman Estates are finally seeing the light – the one coming through fiber optic cables.
Both centers were connected earlier this month to the university’s high-speed fiber optic network – NIUNet – dramatically improving Internet service to those buildings.
How much of an upgrade will the connection provide? Consider, for the sake of comparison, that Internet service providers advertise connections of 2 to 10 megabits to be “high-speed.” The new 10-gigabit connections at the centers are about 10,000 times faster than that, said NIU network architect Herb Kuryliw.
That improvement will eliminate the nightly slowdowns in the computer network when dozens of students flip open their laptops and tap into the building’s Wi-Fi. It also will make the centers much more attractive to corporate clients looking to conduct multi-site training programs or run media-rich presentations across the Web.
The improved connections, coupled with new equipment installed last fall, will allow professors to deliver distance education classes essentially in real time with DVD-quality picture and sound – from appropriately equipped classrooms on the main campus in DeKalb, or from hundreds of other universities around the world.
The new connection also will eliminate more than $50,000 a year in annual fees that each center currently pays for Internet service vastly inferior to what they now receive. It also will enable them to back up data instantaneously on servers in DeKalb.
As has been the case throughout the creation of NIUNet, the network also will benefit other entities, Kuryliw said.
In Rockford, the university worked cooperatively with the City of Rockford to install cable there.
The city provided the labor and equipment to lay the line, while NIU provided the fiber and design work. As a result, both entities were able to achieve goals while spending far less money than if they had pursued them independently. Kuryliw estimates the cooperative effort cut the cost of the project by about 80 percent.
Some of the new fiber in Rockford will be instrumental to help complete the Northern Illinois Technology Triangle, another fiber optic ring that Rockford officials hope will be part of an economic revival there, said Glenn Trommels, information technology director for the city. It will also, someday, provide improved Internet service to schools, hospitals and local governments. Cooperating with the city to install several sections of fiber saved NIU 80 percent of the cost of pursuing that work on its own, Kuryliw said.
In Hoffman Estates, schools in District 300 and District 211, the Village of Hoffman Estates and the nearby City of Elgin all stand to get better, faster and cheaper Internet service with the arrival of NIUNet.
NIU-Naperville was connected to NIUNet about two years ago. The university’s Information Technology Services group is working to find cost effective ways to close the last few miles of the original 175-mile fiber optic loop.