Mellon grant aids Five College fiber optic project

By Carol Angus
Five Colleges, Incorporated has received a grant of $325,000 from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support one-time costs for the management of a new Five College fiber optic network that will furnish nearly limitless bandwidth for the five member campuses of the consortium. Funds from the grant will also be used to offset partial costs for the first two years of operation.
The network project was undertaken as a consequence of discussions held by the presidents and a subsequent study and report commissioned by them in 2001 to assess current and anticipated needs for bandwidth as well as options for addressing those needs. According to an analysis of the last 14 years of data on network use in higher education, bandwidth requirements have doubled every year, as more and more students, staff, and faculty members have come to rely on computers for carrying out work and research. A similar level of demand was reflected in the study of the five colleges.
Five College executive director Lorna M. Peterson cited "the lack of adequate infrastructure in the Five College region, coupled with the rising costs of leasing circuits," as "strong factors" in the decision of the schools to join together in designing and building a network. The one-time capital costs for the project are expected to total $3.3 million, with ongoing costs estimated at $420,000 a year. Once in place and operational, the network, she says, "promises to result in significant cost-avoidance for the schools in the near future."
The grant from Mellon furnishes non-capital costs over a two-year period that began in 2004 to support a critical transition, as the schools move forward on the network while also maintaining existing Internet services.
"We are grateful to The Mellon Foundation for its generous support of this project during a critical start-up phase," said Peterson. "All of us look forward to completion of the network and to having a greatly improved way of linking our campuses to each other and to the wider world."