WSU Cooperative Extension was one of six pilot sites to take part in a test of wireless Internet via satellite technology this summer.
The test was arranged by Scott Fedale in his role as a member of the program panel of the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC), a group of 51 land grant, 1890 and 1994 universities who cooperate in the production and sharing of educational resources via distance learning technologies. Washington State University and the University of California were test sites in the West, Illinois and Nebraska in the Midwest, and the University of North Carolina and University of Maryland-College Park in the East.
The test involved a company called Tachyon, a San Diego firm which is one of many players in this new market for high speed internet access. Tachyons system, like the others, involves a small (1- to 2-meter) satellite dish that is both a receiver and transmitter. The dish is cabled to an interface box, which plugs into a computer (or server), and provides the ability to send a data signal to a satellite and receive one from the same satellite.
The test was conducted at three different levels of service. All return data transmission (backup to the Internet via satellite) was at 256 kilobits per second, about five times the speed of the fastest modem. Level 1 of the test was at 300 KBPS download speed, level 2 was at 800 K, and level 3 was at 2 megabits per second.
The states tested a variety of data transfer activities, including file transfers, email, web browsing, video conferencing, and video streaming along with a host of more technical tests, like ping and traceroute tests, which are designed to identify the quality of the data transmissions, how much signal is lost, etc. The test was conducted over a 45-day period encompassing July and some of August.
Tachyons partnership with ADEC is not its only venture into testing this technology within the world of agriculture. In March 2000, they partnered with precision farming system integrator mPower3, which offers Internet-based software that analyzes data such as soil moisture collected from the fields. This technology partnership in the field of precision farming is aimed at offering an all-in-one package of technology and software to farmers, many of whom dont have access to T-1, digital subscriber lines, or cable modems. This is the same reason ADEC is testing this technology with Tachyon, with an eye towards solving the connectivity problems to land grant university extension and research offices located in rural counties without good, reliable, high speed internet access.
On August 14, we heard that the National Science Foundation would be funding the American Distance Education Consortiums Advanced Internet Satellite Extension Project. This is an extension of the above-described pilot project and is a three-year effort for a total of $4,039,173. As we understand it, this will be a continuing grant from NSFwith NSF making the funding available a year at a time.
Core institutional partners for this project include Washington State University, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, the University of Maryland-College Park, the University of California, University of Illinois, North Carolina State, and North Carolina A&T.
The project will focus on reaching rural and underserved institutions and locations. Many ADEC member institutions will have an opportunity to become involved, including the 1890 land grant institutions, tribal colleges, and Hispanic serving institutions. ADEC will cooperate closely with Internet2 and will be looking at issues related to teaching and learning as well as networking and access via satellite. Tachyon is the private sector partner.
The NSF funding will cover core project staff for project administration, networking and applications, as well as institutional consulting and computer services, wireless hardware, and other networking and technology costs.