March 12, 2010
WOODS HOLE, MA—Woods Hole scientists are hailing last week’s announcement of $32 million in federal stimulus funds awarded to the OpenCape Corporation to construct a new broadband network across southeastern Massachusetts. The project, which will consist of a wireless network, a regional data center, and a 350-mile fiber optic network, will connect more than 60 anchor institutions, including Woods Hole Consortium members Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC). The $32 million grant will be combined with matching funds totaling $8 million from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, RCN Metro Optical Networks, and Barnstable County.
“The Woods Hole Consortium is working to provide scientific knowledge on key issues in today’s society—including climate change and the preservation of the environment—to stakeholders around the world,” said Gary Borisy, MBL Director and CEO. “Optimal broadband and telecommunications infrastructure is critical to our ability to operate effectively in this global arena. We congratulate and thank OpenCape for their tireless efforts to bring this essential network to our region.”
Obtaining adequate and reliable Internet connectivity has been an extreme challenge for the Woods Hole scientific and educational organizations for decades. “Since I arrived at WHOI more than 10 years ago, this has been one of my primary concerns and is a principle reason that I have been active with OpenCape since its inception,” said Art Gaylord, WHOI Director of Computer Information Services and Vice-Chair of OpenCape. “The Woods Hole science community has requirements that exceed most other demands on the Cape and thus are not readily addressed by commercial Internet providers. The fiber optic infrastructure that OpenCape is constructing will enable the Woods Hole Consortium and other Woods Hole organizations to satisfy their bandwidth needs far into the future and allow for customizations as needed to support experimental communications to remote experiments and high performance computers.”
According to Gaylord, the OpenCape network is designed to be highly survivable, particularly to severe weather events. “Multiple independent communications paths using both fiber optic cable and microwave radios will be coming to Wood Hole allowing us to finally ensure the continuity of service that is needed to maintain real-time scientific operations around the world,” he said.
Specific projects that will directly benefit from the OpenCape broadband installation include an innovative network of ocean instruments that will be developed and deployed by WHOI as part of the National Science Foundation-funded Ocean Observatories Initiative, the Woods Hole Research Center’s Pantropical Forest Mapping Project, and the MBL’s data-intensive Biology of Aging and Encyclopedia of Life efforts. The enhanced broadband pipeline that will be provided by OpenCape will also enable all of the institutions to send large quantities of data around the world, something that has been difficult or impossible until now.
“OpenCape will prove very useful as new observing technologies come online and enable us to use different protocols to talk directly to instruments at sea, something we can’t do using standard commercial services,” said WHOI President and Director Susan Avery.
William Brown, President and CEO of the Woods Hole Research Center, added, “The OpenCape project offers us the assurance of fast, reliable data access that’s key to our expanding efforts to quantify global stocks of carbon and biomass using satellite imagery. In many ways, this enables us to operate at the forefront of science and policy issues at the highest level, and to continue to attract the best scientific and analytic talent to our area.”
The Woods Hole Consortium comprises the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), and Woods Hole Research Center (WHRC), and focuses on the interlocking issues of climate change and ecosystems health and human well-being. The alliance was created to bring combined scientific power to bear on some of the major issues facing society today and to spawn scientific growth.