May 30, 2000

GCI Boosts University's High-Tech Capabilities

May 30, 2000  NR 12-2000

The University of Alaska announced today a significant partnership to further the development of the university's next generation information technology network with GCI of Alaska.

GCI is contributing fiber optic connections at the OC-3 level (Optical Carrier level 3, which is capable of handling the equivalent of about 2,000 telephone calls simultaneously) between the Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau campuses and a connection to the next generation Internet backbone in Seattle. The connection will be used for education and research by the university. GCI's contribution of the connections to the university is estimated to be worth approximately $27 million.

This connection will provide the university with the capability to try new ways of delivering instruction, of conducting research, and of collaboration between faculty and researchers both within the University of Alaska system and with other universities. It will open up access to UA students to courses and research and information unavailable to them previously. The OC-3 connection between the three campuses represents an increase about 100 times faster than the old connections. This opens the door to share advanced applications across Alaska's public higher education system. Students will be able to take courses via live, interactive video.

"This exponentially expands the university's ability to deliver courses at a distance," said Dr. Mike Sfraga, director of programs for the university. "It allows us to create a virtual university for the citizens of Alaska."

This partnership will allow the university to continue and expand participation in Internet2, the next generation Internet, now being developed by universities, the federal government, and private companies. The University of Alaska is a charter member of Internet2, which includes more than 150 member universities throughout the nation. Network engineers at both GCI and the university will work and share information on the networks of the future.

"This sort of connectivity truly erases the barriers of distance, " says Steve Smith, the university's chief technology officer. "The university's resources, whether it be the supercomputer center in Fairbanks, or the new logistics program in Anchorage, or technology courses for teachers from Juneau become available across the state." According to Smith, the modes of communication that will be tested and developed as a result of these high speed connections will help define the ways everyone will use the next generation of the Internet in a few years.

The connections are being provided over the new fiber optic cable system that GCI lit up for use a year ago.

The OC-3 circuits will begin sending information between the campuses and the rest of the country later this year after all the optical fiber has been connected to campus networks and tested.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: University - Steve Smith, 907-474-6309
GCI Public Affairs - David Morris, 907-265-5396