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‘Dark Fiber' gives KU new technical link to the world

A new agreement between KU and Kansas State University provides researchers, students and faculty access to an unused fiber optic cable that runs alongside Interstate 70 in northeast Kansas.

"This will connect KU and K-State to the Kansas City hub of fiber optic networks," said Denise Stephens, vice provost for Information Services and chief information officer at KU. "Whether it's though Internet2 or National LambdaRail, the major research network, we'll have direct access. This will enable researchers to share data, collaborate and communicate with greater versatility and efficiency. The cable is referred to as dark fiber because it's currently inactive. That's soon to change."

KU spearheaded acquisition of the idle digital pipeline. But from the outset, the university aimed to team with other Kansas research institutions. The geographic nearness of K-State made it a practical fit in the dark-fiber deal.

"This partnership offers both K-State and KU the opportunity to move our faculty and researchers to the next generation of cyberinfrastructure," said K-State Provost and Senior Vice President Duane Nellis. "The acquisition of this fiber creates the capacity for our universities to play leading roles in research initiatives critical at both the state and national level."

KU and K-State will use the dark fiber primarily to carry out research and academic missions that require enhanced connectivity.

"Communication is crucial, especially for our expanding research efforts," said KU Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Richard Lariviere. "Whether sharing data about a potential new cancer drug or collaborating on study into melting ice sheets, KU needs an open line to the rest of the world. The partnership with K-State represents an investment in future research throughout Kansas."

The KU Medical Center also will be a principal user of the boosted capacity for data transmission, giving researchers and medical personnel a better ability to communicate and share data with experts and clinicians around the world.

"We know that research is more productive when it's a collaboration among multiple investigators or institutions," said Paul Terranova, vice chancellor for research at the KU Medical Center. "This connection enhances our existing and future research collaborations with K-State and allows cutting-edge medical research to continue to improve the health of all Kansans."

For participating institutions, the new fiber-optic connection also will be a key tool for expanding network systems, data center support, commodity Internet service, legacy voice lines and television service. Stakeholders using a shared governance model will approve new uses of the data pipeline.

"We're now looking at least a 50-fold increase in our capacity to share information from the University of Kansas with the world beyond," said Stephens. "This is a significant step, but it isn't a permanent solution. Technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace, so we're already exploring the next steps necessary to ensure optimum information transmission and connectivity."

On a case-by-case basis, other research universities and entities in the state will be invited to tie in to the fiber optic cable, which runs between Smith Center and Kansas City, where there is an Internet2 point-of-presence.

KU and K-State will "light" the dark fiber this fall.

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