Thursday, September 23, 2010

Library Bandwidth in Terms of Gigabytes

I attended the meeting for CENIC's project to provide high speed fiber for California's Central Valley last week. When completed, this project will provide high bandwidth fiber pipe from Kern County (Bakersfield) up to Colusa County. The Central Valley is California's most rural and poorest area, encompassing over 500 miles with a population of over 6.2 million. This is an often neglected part of California. A largely agricultural area, so it is no wonder that this area doesn't have fast bandwidth.

CENIC approached many different partners earlier this year when they submitted an ARRA grant to get high speed. In this area, we refer to bandwidth in megabytes if we are lucky, but it seems soon, we will be speaking in terms of gigabytes.

It's an ambitious program that has identified anchor institutions receiving one Gigabyte per second download speeds. Our Visalia branch library will be an anchor institute, one of 20 headquarter libraries chosen in this project. Currently, the library has 5mbps download times, but with this new fiber coming through, there is the potential to have 1 GBPS, almost 1000 times more bandwidth.

This is the second stimulus grant in which we will benefit. The first from USDA for library construction. This one will be a group project involving schools, public safety, universities, and public libraries. We are one of many organizations, in particular public libraries, that are receiving stimulus grants for broadband. In order to track the progress of these awards, you can go to the United States Department of Agriculture Utilities Page to track grant awards or to the Broadband USA page to see various broadband and Public Computer Center grants.

The grant intends to accomplish the following:
"According to a June 2009 report by the Public Policy Institute of California, Internet and broadband use has increased in all regions of California except for the Central Valley, where 49 percent of households cannot access high-speed service. Current broadband infrastructure in the region is largely inadequate to meet the needs of local community anchor institutions. In response to this situation, Central Valley Independent Network (CVIN), along with its project partner, Corporation for Education Network Initiatives in California (CENIC), intends to deploy a 1,371-mile fiber backbone network through 18 Central Valley counties. The network, consisting of 720 newly constructed miles of fiber and the leasing of 164 miles of dark fiber, will provide Internet backbone service to Amador, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Fresno, Kings, Kern, Mariposa, Merced, Madera, Nevada, Placer, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Sutter, Tuolumne, Tulare, and Yuba counties. In addition, the project will construct 12 new wireless nodes in order to deploy WiMax last-mile service to the rural portions of Fresno, Tulare, Kings, and Kern Counties."

Further, the FCC will fast track these sorts of projects and allow schools and libraries to borrow pipe. Even though we have an anchor institution in Tulare County, we have 15 libraries that could also use high bandwidth fiber. With the many anchor stations in the county, we could tap into four and possibly six other locations, vastly improving service. In fact, this project is scheduled for completion in October of 2012, just two years away. This is the kind of service desperately needed in this rural part of the country. I wrote about bandwidth choking late last year and how that can affect new features and services from libraries. This kind of project can unlock so many doors and provides so much potential. I couldn't believe my ears when Cenic spoke of a one gigabyte pipe and I can hardly contain my excitement at the possibility of having this amount of bandwidth.