Since the pandemic, the need for broadband in rural communities and underserved metro areas has become a priority and efforts are underway to improve access. Funding at both the public and private levels are extending broadband into areas that previously had no access or limited access. OneNet has long advocated for broadband expansion in Oklahoma, but where does a research and education network (REN) like OneNet fit into the broadband landscape?
What is a REN?
First, let’s address what a REN is. RENs are state or regional networks that focus on deploying and operating advanced cyberinfrastructure to enable research and education initiatives in the areas they serve. RENs can be a part of the state’s higher education system or state government. Many RENs are also classified as non-profit organizations. Most states across the U.S. have a REN that serves their communities.
As Oklahoma’s REN, OneNet deploys research-grade connectivity for research and higher education institutions, who need ultra high-speed internet service for national and worldwide research collaborations that involve large data transfers. OneNet also facilitates large data transfer across the state for small institutions without local access to research computing resources.
Regional and National Connections
OneNet is connected to a national network of RENs across the country. OneNet provides access to Internet2 for our state’s higher education institutions and K-12 schools. Internet2 is the nation’s largest and fastest coast-to-coast research and education network. Regionally, OneNet is connected to the Great Plains Network. GPN connects RENs in the southcentral region.
In addition to these connections, OneNet connects communities locally through the Oklahoma Community Anchor Network. OCAN is a partnership between OneNet, the Office of Management and Enterprise Services and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. OCAN’s 1,100 miles of optical fiber connect 93 community anchor institutions, including K-12 schools, higher education institutions, career technology centers, public safety facilities, hospitals and state agency sites. OCAN also provides services to private telecommunications providers, allowing these providers to extend their services into new communities, expanding broadband access for businesses and residents.
State and Private Broadband Partnerships
OneNet also partners with Oklahoma’s broadband leaders. OneNet facilitates information to assist in the Oklahoma Broadband Office’s mission. OneNet also engages with the Oklahoma Broadband Expansion Council to address broadband mapping, digital inclusion, and broadband policy.
OneNet is collaborating with the Broadband Office to develop Oklahoma’s Digital Equity Plan. This plan will enable the state to identify gaps in broadband access, broadband adoption rates, as well as the devices and training needed to access the internet. OneNet will also assist in providing proposals for solutions to these gaps.
OneNet has long-standing partnerships with other state agencies. OneNet meets regularly with the Broadband Office, Office of Management and Enterprise Services, the Department of Transportation, and the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority to discuss broadband infrastructure projects in Oklahoma and how these agencies can collaborate to deliver services.
Finally, many RENs, including OneNet, partner with local telecommunications providers. In Oklahoma, these providers make the local connections from OneNet’s network to subscribers’ sites. OneNet partners with approximately 30 telecommunications providers in Oklahoma and paid these providers nearly $12 million for local connections last fiscal year.
All of these partnerships are vital to delivering broadband service to our state’s rural and underserved communities. As a REN, OneNet plays a central role in the broadband landscape. Our team is proud to serve as our state’s REN and connect communities— connecting teachers with students, doctors with patients, and research scientists with colleagues around the world.
Learn more about RENs by visiting The Quilt, a national coalition of U.S. RENs, representing 43 networks across the country.