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WSU allots cash for fiber optics

Washington State University plans to spend $5 million over the next seven years to expand network speed and capacity for researchers.

The project, approved Friday by regents among a host of construction-related projects, would connect WSU researchers to a national fiber-optic network and vastly increase the bandwidth available for moving big chunks of data, said Viji Murali, WSU’s vice president for information services.

Researchers across all disciplines have access to impressive technological tools, such as detailed 3-D mapping, and they work with huge amounts of information shared among institutions. Schools around the country are figuring out ways to improve their network “infrastructure,” and research capabilities are a key reason.

The University of Idaho spent about $1.7 million last year to expand access and improve its campuswide Internet system.

WSU regents approved the project Friday during a meeting in Vancouver. Also at the meeting, regents voted to select a designer and builder for the second phase of Martin Stadium renovation, a $42 million project that will add luxury boxes and premium seating; and to choose a contractor for a $23.5 million student housing project planned to break ground in 2009. They also approved the design for a $1.5 million project to renovate space at Spokane’s Riverpoint campus for a veterinary clinic.

For the network project, WSU will rent space on a private fiber-optic network running through the region. The university will hook into a national consortium of research universities that are looking to expand collaborative research, known as National Lambda Rail.

Murali said that $2 million of the project would spent on special laser and LED-based equipment needed to “light” the network, or prepare it for use. The other $3 million will pay for access to the fiber network over seven years.

WSU has a network capacity for researchers of a half-gigabyte per second.

“Now we are moving to 40 gigabytes, which is 80 times faster,” Murali said.