04 Aug Governor tells UW to scrap network plans
MADISON, Wis. — With the University of Wisconsin System and the state’s Department of Administration on the verge of creating two separate statewide networks, Gov. Jim Doyle has stepped in and asked them to combine their efforts.
“It’s more sensible for taxpayers to have a unified nework rather than creating two,” said Doyle spokesperson Dan Leistikow.
Initial discussions last year about a unified network crumbled when the DOA would not let the university build and operate it, and the university would not let its portion be farmed out to a private contractor.
The state’s BadgerNet and the university’s WiscNet are already independent, with some overlap. This May, the governor had agreed to let the state and university build their own networks, though it was not known then whether splitting the work would cost more or less.
The university had plans to create a network called the Wisconsin Education and Research Optical Cyberinfrastructure, or WEROC, which would have been largely a product of the university’s in-house IT staff. It would have bought what it could not provide itself—such as telecommunications fiber—piece-meal.
Meanwhile, the DOA has been asking for proposals from commercial vendors for the successor to BadgerNet, which serves schools, libraries, and other civil institutions. Standouts in the list of competitors for the contract include SBC Communications and AT&T.
Now the governor would like the state network to serve the university as well. The DOA will manage the combined project, but take the university’s needs into account in its existing request for proposals.
The proposals will not be made public until Sept. 20, according to state CIO Matt Miszewski. He did say the state is looking for a contract that lasts from 3 to 7 years.
“Sometimes they go as far as 10, but we’d like to keep some flexibility,” he said.
In a June interview, Annie Stunden, director of the university’s Division of Information Technology, said that wasn’t a good idea.
“Taking a long-term contract in this world is like having bought a cell-phone contract two years ago … committing for forever and paying an extraordinary amount for very little service right now,” she said. She was unavailable to comment this week on the new situation.
The university also needs large amounts of bandwidth on demand that Stunden didn’t think outside vendors could provide as reliably as DoIT.
“One of the things we’re committed to is not being on a network where we can’t see the network,” she said.
Leistikow said the DOA wouldn’t be able to build the network in-house, but that a unified network was more cost-efficient.
The university’s plans, though, extended beyond the state. Part of WEROC was bridges between Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago, to help the university system get on Internet2, a high-bandwidth pipeline for researchers who need to share terabytes of data.
“In order for us to compete for research dollars,” Stunden said, “we need high-speed access to major network infrastructures.”