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Last modified: Friday, June 20, 2008

With I-Light ‘backbone’ completed, Indiana sets stage for high-speed growth

June 20, 2008

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie today (June 20) announced completion of the "backbone" of a high-speed, fiber-optic network that will provide every public and private college campus in Indiana with digital communications at least 20 times faster than a typical home Internet connection.

Known as I-Light, the network involves more than 1,000 miles of fiber-optic cable reaching every corner of the state and is larger, per capita, than similar networks in neighboring states. More than 40 higher education institutions will use the system for educational and research purposes.

iLight Map

A map of the I-Light network

Print-Quality Photo

IU and Purdue University jointly manage and operate I-Light and are responsible for providing networking engineering support. Each university also provides technical and educational resources to other institutions via the high-speed network.

"The I-Light network will allow Indiana's colleges and universities to collaborate at a much higher level than was ever thought possible," McRobbie said. "It will strengthen every aspect of the state's educational offerings, and it will greatly expand Indiana's capacity to conduct basic scientific research. It will also ensure that Indiana continues its growth as one of the nation's premier destinations for life sciences and biotechnology investment."

In a ceremony in South Bend -- the northernmost hub of the system -- McRobbie declared the backbone system complete and fully operational. Twenty-six higher education campuses, including six Ivy Tech State College sites, are already connected to the system, while 13 more are expected to be connected within the next six months.

Purdue University Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Gerry McCartney said I-Light will increase collaboration among research institutions in the state.

"Purdue is pleased to be one of the founding institutions, along with IU and IUPUI, in I-Light," McCartney said. "Now that I-Light has extended around the state, many educational institutions are poised to share resources and collaborate to address the needs of Indiana."

In addition to providing more bandwidth than most Indiana colleges and universities could otherwise afford, the system offers a variety of other capabilities, including:

  • Connecting classrooms at distant locations with high-quality video-streaming.
  • Allowing researchers at any location to exchange large digital data files and access super-computers and scientific data storage facilities at IU and Purdue.
  • Making possible multi-campus collaborative research projects.
  • Enabling the use of high-definition learning tools, such as telepresence, a new way of videoconferencing that gives the users the appearance of being at the same location.

"Vincennes University is well aware of where technology is going," said Art Haase, dean of Vincennes University's Technology Division. "Ten years ago we thought about computer numeric controlled machines. Now they control the destiny of manufacturing -- particularly advanced manufacturing in the state of Indiana. We don't know what is on the horizon. But we better have the bandwidth to support whatever comes out next."

I-Light was initiated in 1999 with a $5.3 million state appropriation by the Indiana General Assembly. The initial network, which connected IU Bloomington, Purdue University in West Lafayette and Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, launched in December 2001. In November 2005, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced funding to expand I-Light to the state's colleges and universities to support their research and education programs.

During the last biennium, the state of Indiana appropriated $7 million to assist its public and private colleges and universities in establishing their "last mile" connections to the I-Light network. These connections are proceeding in phases.

"Indiana's investment in advanced networks, like I-Light, has placed the state in an absolute leadership position with our Global Network Operations Center in Indianapolis," said IU Vice President for Information Technology Brad Wheeler. "We leverage this expertise for I-Light, national and international network operations."

Seventeen major network connection points, called "nodes," support the I-Light network. These are located in Indianapolis, Anderson, Muncie, Marion, Ft. Wayne, South Bend, Gary, West Lafayette, Terre Haute, Richmond, Sellersburg, Vincennes, Evansville, Bloomington and Kokomo.

"We're going to be able to improve the quality of our courses," said Jeff Pittman, vice provost for Distance Education at Ivy Tech. "We're doing a lot of video streaming. We'll be able to expand and increase the quality of those (distance-learning courses) quite a bit -- making the courses seem much more in real time, much more student-friendly -- by being able to do this video streaming. The sky is the limit with the bandwidth that we're going to have in the near future."

In expanding the network across the state, the I-Light team is working with multiple vendors to provide connection to the backbone. This activity is spurring development of additional broadband access by these vendors, thus promising to benefit the state beyond the higher education sector.

"Today, so much in teaching and research can only happen through partnerships, and I-Light brings to Indiana a first-rate connective fiber for allowing college and universities to work together on teaching and research projects to help build their communities," said Dennis Trinkle, executive director of the Indiana Higher Education Telecommunication System. "Those who already connected to I-Light are only going to be able to benefit more and benefit the state more."

Those schools currently connected (and planned for connection by the end of the year) are listed below. These schools will all be connected at gigabit Ethernet speed. The amount of bandwidth being provisioned differentiates the I-Light network from other state networks, which may also connect many institutions, but do so at much smaller bandwidth.

Anderson University

Ball State University

DePauw University

Earlham College

Grace College & Theological Seminary

Indiana State University

Indiana University Bloomington

Indiana University East

Indiana University Kokomo

Indiana University South Bend

Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis

Indiana Wesleyan University

Ivy Tech College-Indianapolis

Ivy Tech State College-North Central

Ivy Tech State College-Northeast

Ivy Tech State College-Richmond

Ivy Tech State College-South Central

Ivy Tech State College-South Campus

University of Notre Dame

State of Indiana Disaster Recovery Circuits

University of Southern Indiana

Indiana University Northwest

Vincennes University

Indiana University-Purdue University Columbus

Purdue University-Calumet

Institutions that are expected to be connected by the beginning of the 2008-09 academic year:

Indiana Institute of Technology

University of Saint Francis

Indiana University Southeast

Purdue University-North Central

Valparaiso University

Institutions included in the next phase of expansion, as funds are released by the State of Indiana, with the goal of connecting by end of 2008:

Butler University

Goshen College

Holy Cross College

Marian College

Saint Joseph's College

Saint Mary of the Woods

Saint Mary's College

University of Indianapolis