NIUNet goes fiber optic for new network

By Kelly Johnson

The first phase of NIUNet’s project to install a fiber optic network in the northern Illinois area should be complete this summer.

As announced last September, NIUNet has a three-year plan to build a 175-mile fiber optic loop connecting DeKalb to Batavia and Chicago. The first phase consists of connecting NIU to Fermilab in Batavia, the optical infrastructure Starlight at Northwestern University and the NIU Naperville Campus.

“Our targeted goal is to have [the first phase] up and working for the fall semester 2005,” said Herb Kuryliw, chief network architect of NIU Information Technology Services.

The university is expected to invest $1.5 million into the project, sharing costs with partners such as the local Internet Service Provider, TBC, the DeKalb School District and the Illinois Municipal Broadband Communications Association.

The fiber optic ring will benefit research at NIU as well as general Internet users. Besides connecting to research labs including Fermilab and Argonne National Labs at the University of Chicago, students will be relieved of some of the higher bandwidth applications on the network. These applications will move to the Internet2 research network.

“[The fiber optic ring] is extremely important for our current research projects and grants,” said Walter Czerniak, associate vice president for ITS.

NIUNet is working on closing some of the contracts with partners of the project. The hope is to have the contracts with Naperville and DeKalb completed this month, Kuryliw said.

Fiber optics connect with faster speeds by utilizing the speed of light. The light is sent down the fiber in the same way electricity is sent through copper.

“Not only does light travel very fast, but we can also send multiple colors at the same time to increase the number of signals sent on the fiber,” Czerniak said.

After the ring is complete, many communities near the tollway will be able to take advantage of it. After the first phase is complete, NIUNet plans to begin work with Sycamore,” Czerniak said.