NIU receives largest grant in university history

By Jacqueline Evans

NIU received a $68.5 million grant Tuesday for broadband network development, the largest grant in NIU history.

The grant will affect NIU and DeKalb, as well as a substantial part of northwest Illinois.

According to an NIU news release, the network will extend to such counties as Whiteside, Stephenson, Ogle, Lee, Jo Daviess, Carroll, Winnebago, Boone and LaSalle.

The network will offer affordable high speed broadband connections to school, libraries and healthcare providers.

“Over 500 municipalities, agencies and businesses will be affected by the grant,” said Brad Hoey, team leader of Media Relation and Internal Communication.

NIU President John Peters also noted the impact of the grant.

“This is a landmark day for NIU, not only because of the magnitude of this grant, but also for what it says about NIU and our commitment and capacity to serve the emerging needs of our region,” Peters said in the official news release.

NIU was asked to write the grant by the Illinois Governors Office because of their expertise and experience with grant writing as well as success in other technological projects like NIUNet, an ultra-fast, fiber-optic communications network.

“The university received the grant because [NIU] is able to put together grant initiatives and facilitate the network,” Hoey said.

NIU faculty will also benefit from the grant, particularly in the School of Music.

“The infrastructure allows the School of Music to make connections with other universities and as well as hospitals by providing a music channel on their TVs.” said Paul Bauer, director of the School of Music.

The School of Music will also make connections internationally through the broadband grant.

“Contact with Costa Rica and Trinidad will help our students learn the value of learning globally,” Bauer said.

Funding for the grant came from the National Telecommunication and Information Administration and private agencies. Amidst the state’s budget crisis, $14 million of the $68.5 million came from the State of Illinois.

“The money from the state is stimulus money; the state has resources reserved for economic development; we want this grant to create jobs and spur economic growth,” Hoey said.

According to the press release, the effect of the grant will reach many different areas around northwest Illinois as well as right here at NIU. Faculty research, law professors, computer scientists and professional programs in health care, education and public safety will benefit from the grant, as well as students and faculty who want to engage themselves in long-distance learning opportunities.