OARnet boosts Ohio’s broadband network



The Ohio Academic Resources Network increased Ohio’s broadband Internet network by tenfold to 100 gigabits per second on Dec. 11.

The state invested $13 million to accelerate Ohio’s broadband infrastructure, providing more than 1,850 miles of fiber optic network. The update gives Ohio more fiber optic broadband installed per capita than any other state.

The 100 Gbps project only upgrades the backbone of OARnet’s network, not the connections to its clients, such as Youngstown State University. 

YSU pays around $60,000 per year for 350 megabits per second, a fraction of a full 1 Gbps service.

“We now have a 350 Mbps service delivered to us over a 1,000 Mbps (1 gigabit) connection,” said Jason Rakers, director of network telecommunications and security at YSU. “As more university services move to the cloud, I see the continuing need for more OARnet bandwidth.“

When Rakers first started working at YSU in 2006, only 45 Mbps were delivered to YSU. He said enrollment numbers and other factors affect OARnet’s pricing, adding that YSU cannot afford the full Gbps service.

OARnet has been able to lower the state’s broadband access costs by increasing the length of fiber optic cables and negotiating prices by buying in volume. It now provides the state with a research engine that could boost the capabilities of Ohio’s education, health care, public broadcasting and government communities.

“It is good that the capacity is there, but I would have been much more interested in having the governor provide a ‘free’ research network service from OARnet to each of the 14 state universities in Ohio in order to further facilitate research and collaboration among the universities without paying for service,” Rakers said.

OARnet’s goal was to entice businesses to Ohio by providing more broadband capacity for medical research, higher education, manufacturing, engineering and technology networking.

“Case Western is the first university to connect to 100 Gbps, and eventually other schools will be able to connect,” said Susan Mantey, OARnet’s outreach manager. “This is the largest of many steps that creates a new environment of opportunities.”

OARnet was formed in 1987 as a division of the Ohio Board of Regents Ohio Technology Consortium. The division helps create tech solutions that potentially reduce costs, increase productivity and improve customer service for communities in Ohio.

Michael Hrishenko, director of media and academic computing at YSU, said OARnet has always had a great relationship with YSU.

“Services like Blackboard are significant over the cloud, and how they are facilitated can be very important to students,” Hrishenko said. “Any improvement in the service is going to be beneficial to our students.”