Internet2 To Arrive Downtown Soon

November 1, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — The New Year will bring life-science researchers a new lifeline, as fiber is expected to be laid in downtown's northeast corner by the end of this year that will link them to Internet2.

Internet2 is a high-speed, broader-bandwidth network application that is solely dedicated to scientific data and communication. A recent $90,000 grant from the Grand Rapids Local Development Finance Authority will pay to install optical fiber and make access to the new Net a virtual reality for those in the biotechnology industry here.

The Van Andel Research Institute, Spectrum Health and the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences at Grand Valley State University will be looped together to allow huge amounts of data to be quickly and electronically exchanged among the three sites.

"The grant we got from the city is to install the fiber from Van Andel and Spectrum to Grand Valley, the Center for Health Sciences up here on the hill. That is the actual cost for the fiber installation," said Matt Dugener, executive director of the West Michigan Science and Technology Initiative (WMSTI) at GVSU.

The fiber will be run underground through conduit that has already been routed, so the streets will not have to be torn up to lay the fiber.

Connecting to a much more academic version of the Internet helps to fill a goal set by WMSTI, which is to connect the "disconnected synergy in the local life sciences arena and build structure around it." WMSTI plans to accomplish that objective by linking people and resources together through its new program called BioTech Connect.

"It's a very big part of that. It allows folks at Spectrum, as well as the researchers at Van Andel and Grand Valley, to share information electronically. They won't have to lug a file around on a disk or something and have someone walk it over," said Dugener.

The data files Dugener speaks of are enormous.

"You have a lot of commercial traffic on the original Internet. It takes a long time to send these files and sometimes they just can't be sent because they're so large," he said.

"The fact that Internet2 is dedicated to research and that the bandwidth on Internet2 is so much greater, it allows those enormous electronic files to be shared and it allows us to collaborate more completely up here on the hill."

Access to Internet2 will be restricted to those active in the industry and who have been cleared through a registration process. Interested applicants need someone to sponsor their entries; a stipulation that developers hope will keep this broadband free of sales pitches for everything from refinancing a home to buying Viagra.

"I think there is a real concerted effort to keep Internet2 commercial free. At this point, I'm not too concerned about that," he said. "When you're downloading the size of files that we're talking about, you can't have pop-ups."

GVSU, the Van Andel Institute, Grand RapidsCommunity College, The Right Place Inc. and the city of Grand Rapids formed WMSTI and created BioTech Connect. A few of the program's benefits for member companies include access to the WMSTI database, access to life science professionals, and the latest industry scoops from the BioLink newsletter.    

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