ARE-ON, the Arkansas Research and Education Optical Network, will soon include UCA in its list of universities using the regional optical network, joining the likes of the University of Arkansas, Henderson State, Arkansas State University, UALR and others.
John Gale, chair of mass communication and theatre, said ARE-ON is a high speed fiber optic network that connects all the comprehensive four-year state universities in Arkansas.
Already in place, with just some programming to accomplish, ARE-ON provides a superhighway of information exchange not just to Arkansas universities, where ARE-ON is connected, but also to other regional optical networks.
“We are connected together and will continue to be as the other schools come on. I saw a connection from Fayetteville to Chicago, patched through Baton Rouge. It was HDTV over the Internet,” Gale said.
The connection increases the speed of the UCA network seven-fold, with a connection available and means to increase to 70 times what we currently use. It’s capable of increasing beyond that in increments of eight, Gale said.
“We are taking our Internet capacity and really putting it on steroids,” Gale said.
Gale compared the new network to the original Internet, saying that no one knew 15 years ago what to do with the Internet, but researchers, applications people, educators and others figured out what to do with it.
“Imagine taking a gravel road and that’s the only road you could ever drive on. Then you go out to a five lane super highway. It allows all sorts of traffic, all sorts of things to happen,” he said.
Gale said the network will be so pervasive with research and connecting with research universities that researchers can find their space and do their work from UCA instead of finding supercomputers capable of the needed workload and can do this tremendous amount of work from a distance without having to travel.
“Suppose we play a school like Louisiana Tech in football, as a sports example, Louisiana Tech is on that network. We could send our truck down to do the ballgame, feed that video in uncompressed, run it through the network and bring it right in to Channel 6 here without having to set up a satellite truck,” Gale said.
The abilities ARE-ON gives participating universities allow the immediate exchange of films, computations and live media across this network into the hands of other universities.
President Allen Meadors pointed out different ways optical networks are being used to enhance and support learning, citing the ARE-ON Web site’s mission, “to promote, develop and apply advanced application and communication technologies to support and enhance education, research, public service and economic development.”
“For UCA, ARE-ON will provide a high speed data connection that now surpasses anything else available to us,” Meadors said.
Meadors said health care educators, astronomy students, guest lecturers, computational math students and more will be directly influenced by ARE-ON and the capabilities it will provide this university.
Gale said, “I think we’re going to find really marvelous ways to employ it. Some people ask, ‘Why are you building it if you don’t have an application for it?’ Well that model worked before when the Internet first came along. Constructing this will provide the catalyst for researchers to say, ‘Hey let’s take it a little farther.’”
Gale said he is interested in finding what ideas students and faculty can come up with to use this new network.
Gale said, “We’re fortunate on campus that we have a lot of really good undergraduate and graduate thinkers. I think if they would spend a little time exploring what regional optical networks are, like ARE-ON, they could come up with ways to use this that maybe we’ve never imagined.
“I would invite students to explore and think about if you had all the bandwidth you wanted,” he said. “What would you do with it? What kind of projects would you come up with? What kind of research would you do?”