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Agreement reached on UW role in state cooperative network

June 17, 2011 By Brian Rust

UW-Madison will be able to continue all current networking affiliations, including membership in WiscNet, under an agreement included in Wisconsin’s proposed state budget.

“We believe this agreement protects our service to students, our $1 Billion research enterprise and the 3500 high-tech jobs in Research Park,” says John Krogman, chief operating officer of the Division of Information Technology (DoIT). “Legislators also understand the importance of letting UW institutions join new collaborative research networks that boost Wisconsin’s economy and support our missions.”

The revised legislation preserves three important connections for the UW.

  • Allows the UW to continue as full members of WiscNet for the next two years, while an objective audit/review is undertaken of the UW relationship with the nonprofit cooperative. A non-partisan audit will help Telecom providers, the University and other WiscNet customers understand the issues better. As part of this, UW System will have to seek Joint Finance Committee approval for WiscNet to add new members or services during the two years in order for UW-System to remain members.
  • Enables the UW to remain an active member of existing research consortia (Internet2, BOREAS, Northern Tier and others). The audit and review will also shed additional light on the UW’s critical role in these important global partnerships.  UW–Madison will have the option of joining new consortia with additional Joint Finance Committee  oversight.
  • Approves a $32-million UW-Extension federal grant to move forward, with the provision that future financial commitments require Joint Finance Committee approval. In communities where funds have not yet been committed (as of June 15, 2011), the UW-Extension would have to return to Joint Finance with their community partners for approval.

The UW, through DoIT, helped found WiscNet in 1990. From the beginning, UW has paid WiscNet for its share of internet service, and WiscNet has paid DoIT for expertise from several of its network staff. The arrangement is legal, affordable and desired by WiscNet’s 450 members.

“My colleagues and I brought the Internet to the UW System and to other higher education institutions in Wisconsin,” says Tad Pinkerton, emeritus professor of computer science at UW–Madison. “This continues to be a great example of the Wisconsin Idea – extending UW connectivity to public schools and libraries throughout the state through this non-profit association called WiscNet.”

The UW is committed to a healthy dialogue with legislators, telecommunications providers, and community partners to find areas of common ground and to leverage public/private partnerships wherever possible.

“Overall, we are cautiously optimistic,” says Krogman. “We believe we have protected our research enterprise and our strong relationship with WiscNet and other research and education networks, while we continue to work with the state moving forward.”