MADISON, Wis. – The UW System and its 26 campuses and affiliates across Wisconsin will transition to a new high-speed, self-managed research and education data network over the next 14 to 18 months, UW System officials announced today at a briefing in the state Capitol.

The new network will be state-of-the-art, using the latest equipment, software and optics technology to support UW’s current mission-critical operations and to advance research and development opportunities.

The transition to the new network will also benefit the private sector as well, said UW–Madison’s Vice Provost for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Bruce Maas.

“About 75 percent of the funds used to provision the network will go to entities outside the university, including fiber providers, telecommunications carriers, equipment manufacturers and other commercial vendors,” Maas said.

The briefing at the Capitol today was held to provide legislators and other interested parties with an update on progress made since April and the plan going forward.

The transition to the new network was necessitated by legislation that requires UW System to withdraw from WiscNet, the nonprofit consortium that provided connectivity to all UW campuses for the past 23 years.

The plan for transitioning to the new network is being developed and implemented by UW–Madison’s Division of Information Technology (DoIT), which will design, operate and manage the new network for all UW institutions. Once completed, the new network will serve established UW affiliates, including foundations, alumni associations and research parks.

Maas said peering or connectivity sharing agreements that UW campuses currently maintain within their communities will continue.

“Peering is essential,” Maas said. “Virtually every campus has formal or informal agreements to interconnect or share fiber, transport or equipment this way. That’s the nature of Internet connectivity.”

The UW System is anticipated to spend about $33 million to procure, manage and maintain the network over the next five years, an increase of about $13 million over the expected cost of remaining with WiscNet over the same time period.

UW System will be asking legislators to extend current statutory deadlines to allow for a smooth transition from WiscNet to the new system. Significant steps in the transition have already been made, including the withdrawal of UW System representation on WiscNet’s Board of Directors, and UW–Madison terminating its status as fiscal agent for WiscNet. In addition, by the end of this calendar year, WiscNet will employ no UW staff.

“To ensure uninterrupted service, our campuses must maintain connectivity with WiscNet until our new UW network is up and running,” said David Miller, UW System’s senior vice president for administration and fiscal affairs. “At the same time, WiscNet needs access to UW-owned fiber to continue serving our UW System institutions during this transition. We will ask the legislature to accommodate these needs by extending our statutory deadlines.”

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David Giroux UW System (608) 262-4464