By Bobby Harrison/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSON – An expanded broadband system that will service the state’s four major universities and other research entities is not your typical Internet service.
Fiber optic lines will provide the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State, Jackson State and the University of Southern Mississippi 20 times more broadband capacity and allow them to enhance their research capacity.
Gov. Haley Barbour, who announced the development of the network during a Wednesday news conference in Jackson, said the program will allow the universities to expand 70 ongoing research projects that are bringing $381 million in federal funds to the state.
“This network will transform our universities’ capabilities and academic competitiveness on a global scale,” Barbour said. “…Researchers will be able to share massive amounts of complex data quickly, enhancing their work in a variety of areas from medicine to manufacturing. This is work that often leads to the creation of new companies and jobs for Mississippians.”
Examples of programs that would be expanded by the enhanced Internet network include at Ole Miss a $300,0000 project to predict “disastrous flooding” and its impact on the environment and at MSU a $1.7 million project to measure fungal growth and alfatoix contamination for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Barbour said the network will be of special import for projects at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, such as the Jackson Heart Study Exam where $38 million has been expended thus far by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Felix Okojie, chair of the Mississippi Research Consortium and vice president of Research and Federal Relations at JSU, said the network will put the state on at least par with neighboring states.
The Mississippi Department of Information Technology, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg and the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County also will be part of the network.
Barbour said it would have cost $70 million to develop the infrastructure from scratch. Instead, the state reached a deal with AT&T to update existing infrastructure to provide up to 20 gigabit in communications ability.
The state is paying AT&T $16 million to rent the infrastructure for the next eight years. Mayo Flynt, president of AT&T – Mississippi, said the network would be in operation by the end of the year.