CONNECTING THOUGHTS: George Loftus heads OSHEAN, a consortium of nonproft institutions developing a communications infrastructure.
PBN PHOTO/BRIAN MCDONALD
By Kimberley Donoghue PBN Web Editor
The Beacon 2.0 project could be the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for nonprofits burdened by broadband costs.
It’s a fiber-optic network spanning Rhode Island and Bristol County, Mass., that tramples even current broadband speeds and, best of all, comes at an affordable price.
The Ocean State Higher Education Economic Development and Administrative Network, a nonprofit consortium of 30 institutions formed in 1999 to develop a communications infrastructure for Rhode Island, recently received $21.7 million from the American Recovery & Revitalization Act’s Federal Broadband Technology Opportunities Program to continue expanding on its fiber optic segments. The federal money will be matched by $10.7 million in private funding.
OSHEAN will incorporate its current 90 miles of fiber optic cable into one network spanning 339 miles. The areas that already have fiber optic networks will see faster speed and the network will be expanded to more than 20 “community anchor institutions,” including libraries, universities and hospitals.
“This project will touch just about every citizen in Rhode Island; if you are a voter, the secretary of state’s office will be using this system, if you drive on our highways, the highway cameras will be using this system,” said George Loftus, president and CEO of consortium, also known as OSHEAN.
The consortium has already built segments of the fiber optic network; the stimulus money will allow the organization to “pull all the pieces together,” Loftus said.
Beacon 2.0 will have a capacity of 400 gigabits per second, allowing schools to connect at 1 gigabit per second, or 50 times faster than the average speed at a Rhode Island home, while universities and hospitals will be able to reach speeds up to 10 gigabits per second.
Loftus estimates OSHEAN will be able to process 10 gigabits for what 1 gigabit costs today and 1 gigabit for today’s price of 20 megabits; “Our mission … is to drive down the cost of broadband and deliver higher capacities to our members,” he said. The organization emphasizes affordability for nonprofits because they are the “least equipped” to pay for the technology but most in need.