Â-Special to the E-T

Texas A&M University has been awarded a $6.6 million Broadband Technology Opportunities Program grant. This award, along with $3 million in matching contributions, will allow the A&M System to provide high-speed broadband access to all 11 A&M System universities, the Texas A&M Health Science Center, and communities served by the A&M System.  Through a public-private partnership with four independent rural telephone companies in Texas, the City of Corpus Christi, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and the A&M System, the grant will fund construction of Texas Pipes, a fiber optic network with minimum data rates of one gigabit per second (Gbps) and capable of supporting up to 40 Gbps. Grant funds also enhance public safety by increasing broadband capabilities for campus police departments. “This initiative once again demonstrates Texas A&M University and the A&M System’s desire to be a leader in collaborative networking,” said Dr. Pierce Cantrell, Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer.?Texas Pipes will leverage the existing broadband infrastructure of the A&M System’s TTVN Network by building new connections to the Lonestar Education and Research Network, the Texas regional optical network that serves higher education institutions, community colleges, and K-12 public schools. LEARN provides high-speed access to the Texas Education Intranet and specialized higher education research and education networks, such as, Internet2 and National LambdaRail. Constructing these new connections will expand LEARN’s reach into currently underserved areas of Texas, increasing access to distance learning, research, and health services. ?Mike Phillips, executive director of LEARN, said, “This award would not have been possible without the leadership and collaborative nature of a broad and diverse set of partners working together on behalf of Texans. The project will enable us to bring needed broadband based services to many new communities throughout Texas. LEARN is excited to have the opportunity to work with our partners on this innovative and dynamic project.”

Partners in the fiber optic network construction include four independent telecommunication companies in Texas:  Totelcom Communications in DeLeon, Mid-Plains Telephone Cooperative in Tulia, Wintel Fiber in Windthorst, and Peoples Telephone Cooperative in Quitman.  Each of them will construct and maintain a portion of the network.

Another project partner, the City of Corpus Christi, will be expanding their network and connecting community centers, libraries, and public safety facilities, as well as making their resources available to Texas A&M University Corpus Christi. 

Funding also is provided for next generation Internet-based radio gateways that allow campus police departments to communicate with local Texas Department of Public Safety radio systems over the broadband network. DPS will be making their public safety databases (including wants and warrants) over a shared link, eliminating the need for costly satellite-based communication links.?According to Cantrell, “This grant was only made possible through a public and private partnership that embraces the spirit of the BTOP grants. The required 30 percent grant match was shared by all of the partners that will benefit from the grant.”

Toney Prather, President of Totelcom Communications, LLC said “We are excited to be partnering with Texas A&M to provide a portion of their Texas Pipes Network.  We will construct 40 miles of new fiber and utilize 30 miles of our existing fiber interconnecting the Texas A&M network from near Goldthwaite to its Tarleton State University Campus in Stephenville.  A very high speed DWDM Ethernet terminal initially configured at 40Gb will be located in DeLeon and will give us access to more efficient higher data rates, possibly allowing a future enhanced video deployment in DeLeon.  Our affiliate, Our Town Internet Services, will also host a terminal and will be able to offer faster speeds to its residential and business customers in the Stephenville area.