Mississippi a Scientific Powerhouse?

Universities in Mississippi are poised to become research powerhouses by the end of 2011, thanks to an upgrade to their communications network. The change will enable the universities to more quickly link to research institutions around the state and share information in the blink of an eye. So what exactly is this 'unprecedented' upgrade?

networking information sharing mississippi AT&T

'Not Your Average Service Upgrade'

Mississippi is turning to AT&T to make things go faster.

Later this year, the state will gain access to the company's fiber optic network. Mississippi State University, Jackson State University, University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi make up the consortium of higher education institutions that will be impacted by this upgrade. NASA's Stennis Space Center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center, the Mississippi Department of Information Technology and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will also utilize the faster network.

AT&T's network is 20 times faster than the broadband currently used by these universities (the fiber optic lines can handle 20 billion bits of information per second; comparatively, DSL lines for home use move 6 million bits of information per second) . This speed will reduce information sharing from a day, or potential days, to hours or even minutes.

What it all translates into is a much shorter turnaround time between research and the development of real products. This is expected to give these schools an edge when competing for research funding. 'This is not your average service upgrade,' said Mayo Flint, president of AT&T Mississippi, as reported by ClarionLedger.com in August.

MissiON Accomplished

The Mississippi research network, known as 'MissiON', marks a first: no other state has been provided access to AT&T's fiber optic network. The move comes on the heels of last year's $90 million network expansion by Cellular South, which offered a significant increase in mobile network capacity for counties in central and south Mississippi.

The AT&T deal turned into a financial win for the universities. Should the schools have gone ahead to develop their own new network, it would have cost about $54 million more than the deal with AT&T. Mississippi is paying the company $2 million per year for the next eight years for use of the network.

The move will positively impact research in areas of biomedicine, ecology, computing and oceanography. The four universities have just over $380 million in research funded by federal dollars currently being conducted and that would greatly benefit from enhanced information sharing capabilities.

Felix Okojie, vice-president of Jackson State University and chairman of the consortium, is one of many excited by the possibilities the fiber optic network offers. He called it something the universities have been looking forward to. Governor Haley Barbour shared those feelings, stating that the deal would have 'tremendous impact' on the entire state.

When it comes to networks, faster is always better. Find out how 29 colleges and universities have come together to bring ultra-fast networking to their communities.

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