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Students drive bandwidth growth: University commits to advanced tech environment. (Special focus: optical technologies).

Today, The George Washington University (GW), is home to a "Net-ready student body." Each incoming class of freshmen seems more Internet-savvy and bandwidth-hungry than its predecessor. The university supports more than 12,000 10-Mbps Internet-ready fiber connections, and no usage plateau is in sight. GW is experiencing 300% growth in Internet usage for the fourth consecutive year.

Meeting the bandwidth demands of the university's student body is no small challenge. By the end of the 2000-01 academic year, GW was faced with undertaking a major connectivity upgrade or implementing usage governors that would severely limit what the students could do on the Internet. The latter, in fact, was not a realistic option.

"The university is committed to being one of the world's most technologically advanced institutions of higher learning," says Ron Bonig, executive director for technology operations at GW, "a commitment encompassing not only the students' classroom experience, but, ultimately, every aspect of their lives.

"Students come from around the world to attend GW, and one reason is that we are recognized as a leading high-tech environment," Bonig adds. Ranked No. 70 overall among wired colleges by one technology magazine, GW was given high grades for the usefulness, design and navigability of its Web portal, as well as the availability and range of technical support.

To meet the needs of its students, the university went shopping for a connectivity upgrade. "We needed a giant, dedicated and uncluttered pipe to the Internet, stable service, diverse routing, and, of course, the price had to be right," says Bonig. The university relies on multiple routes to the Internet provided by multiple vendors, and, with this connectivity upgrade, GW would underscore reliability by establishing a new service-demarcation point, at a leased, off-campus building.

The market offered a variety of options, and GW eventually selected Cogent Communications. "They demonstrated that they would be able to turn up the alternative route more quickly than the competition," Bonig offers. "The price/performance ratio also was the most compelling. Most importantly, the bandwidth (100 Mbps) would be able to handle the demands of the student body."

That 100 Mbps of guaranteed bandwidth provided to GW at a fixed price per month is equal to or less than the typical cost of a T-1 line (just 1.5 Mbps). Its 80-Gbps, all-optical, facilities-based network was built strictly for data transport and includes none of the costly synchronous optical network terminals, redundant protection fiber paths or optronics needed in a voice-oriented infrastructure.

A customer-premise device was deployed in the off-campus building's basement. "Installation was about as complicated as getting a VCR up and rolling: power up, one line in from the university's high-speed LAN, one line out to their fiber ring and the Internet," Bonig says. Cogent provides GW with its single-largest connection to the Internet, and there have been no issues with service.

GW, Bonig says, expects user demand to soon again be nipping at bandwidth's heels. "The trend toward computerized instruction is intensifying," he says. The university continues adopting Web-enabled administrative applications, allowing students to remotely check grades and register for classes, for example.

Usage statistics show that GW's Web portal is an increasing part of students' outside-the-classroom lives. "This is the first generation conditioned to turning to the Internet first to conduct all sort of personal business, from ordering pizza to keeping up with what's new downtown at the Smithsonian," he adds.

University admissions recently prepared an orientation video in which GW students were asked how often a day they check e-mail-three times was the minimum. "Many can't pass a machine on campus without checking," Bonig says. "The university processes 1.5 million e-mail messages per week already, and that accounts for only a minute percentage of overall network usage. We expect another 300% spike in bandwidth demand during the 2002-03 academic year.

"We are preparing our network for a time in the not-so-distant future when all cell phones, personal digital assistants, laptops and next-generation devices are interwoven with wireless connections into the university network and to the Internet," Bonig concludes. "The age of ubiquitous computing is coming to the entire world, but it is dawning already among this Net-ready generation."

For more information from Cogent Communications:
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Title Annotation:George Washington University
Publication:Communications News
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2002
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