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Carnegie Mellon To Play Key Role in New Statewide Education Network

Commerce SecretaryCarnegie Mellon University is expected to play a vital role in the development of a new statewide high-speed network that will reach every region of Pennsylvania, connecting colleges, universities, K-12 schools, libraries, health care and public safety organizations, and businesses.

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Congressman Mike Doyle recently announced the creation of the new Pennsylvania Research and Education Network (PennREN) during a press briefing at Carnegie Mellon, a PennREN founding member. The three government officials also announced a large-scale effort to bring high-speed, affordable Internet access to unserved and underserved rural areas in Pennsylvania. The PennREN and Internet access initiative will be funded by nearly $130 million in grants — $99.6 million in federal stimulus funding as part of the Obama administration's 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and $29 million in private funds.

"PennREN represents an historic opportunity for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and its citizens to recognize the benefits of high-speed broadband networks," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon. "The collaboration will connect urban centers and underserved areas across the state, enabling distance learning, telemedicine and a host of new applications not otherwise possible. In addition, we hope the network will facilitate more opportunities for Carnegie Mellon to partner with other Pennsylvania education institutions connected by PennREN, including community colleges and K-12 schools, to improve the quality of education in Pennsylvania."

"Carnegie Mellon's expertise is critical," Doyle said. "Carnegie Mellon will be coming up with the ideas and programs for distance learning on the Internet that will help K-12 students as well as students in higher education."

PennREN will provide access and services to institutions that will potentially serve more than 5 million individuals in more than 2 million households and 200,000 businesses.

The federal stimulus funds were awarded to the Keystone Initiative for Network-Based Education and Research (KINBER), a coalition of Pennsylvania colleges and universities, research and health care organizations, and economic development entities. Joel Smith, chief information officer and vice provost for Computing Services at Carnegie Mellon, is a member of the KINBER board of directors.

Founding KINBER members are the Association for Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania; Bucknell University; Carnegie Mellon; Drexel University; EINetworks, a collaboration of the Allegheny Library Association and the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh; the Hospital & Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania; Lehigh University; the Mid-Atlantic Gigapop for Internet2 (MAGPI) at the University of Pennsylvania; the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges; the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education; the Pennsylvania State University; the Three Rivers Optical Exchange (3ROX) at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Pittsburgh; and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Pictured above is Congressman Mike Doyle, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke.

Bruce Gerson