May 25th, 2019
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09/30/2003 - VPnet Expands

The Virtual Possibilities Network (VPnet) was launched last November 26. According to Scott Morris, Senior Vice President, Avista Corp. and President, Avista Utilities, VPnet is "an economic development tool for the Inland Northwest; to facilitate the creation of, and access to, a durable high-speed communications network." VPnet is essentially an Avista Corp. gift of dark fiber for an "unlimited" bandwidth Metropolitan Area Network (MAN). The MAN is to eventually connect all of the universities and colleges in the Inland Northwest --- from Cheney to Coeur d'Alene, to Moscow and Pullman, and finally to Seattle and the East. Currently, over 200 miles of dark fiber reach or are accessible to ten of the fourteen college and university locations participating in the VPnet program.

Avista's contribution was two strands of dark fiber for a renewable five-year period, and the creation, organization, and launch of the VPnet governance structure. The governance structure is made up from the member universities with Avista participating in an ex-officio role. Columbia Fiber Solutions, a VPnet project partner, donated additional fiber for last mile connectivity. Avista has brought Network Design and Management, Inc. (NDM) in as project managers and engineering expertise to coordinate the on-going project.

NDM performed a task analysis to validate the Columbia Fiber engineering plan, determined what was feasible, verified effective use of the available fiber, recommended an alternate layout of the networking components, and utilizing proven project management methodology, proposed an implementation plan. Their job was to determine what needed to be done, when it was needed, where it was needed, and finally, how much it would cost. NDM acts as the liaison between Columbia Fiber and Avista Corp and others involved in the VPnet project. Thanks to this project management, VPnet construction is moving along at a steady pace.

After the initial assessment, the expansion of the VPnet was divided into a multiple part project.
Connecting the Metropolitan Area Network.
Connecting with Touch America, (soon to be 360 Communications) to extend the VPnet to Seattle, Pullman, Moscow, ID, and beyond.
Connecting from the edge of Columbia Fiber's network on the West Plains to Eastern Washington University.
In the Metropolitan Area Network, SIRTI, Gonzaga and Whitworth are connected and lit. Dark fiber is in at Spokane Community College, and the network is waiting the electronics for full enablement. Spokane Falls Community College is almost ready --- dark fiber should be fused and ready for enabling soon ---perhaps within a month. At this time about thirty-three per cent of all vaults identified for VPnet use are fused for dark fiber.

After the SCC fiber is fused, the next leg is Post Falls and Coeur d'Alene --- including North Idaho College and University of Idaho at the UI Research Park. The North Idaho College buildings already are wired with fiber --- all that is missing is the connection to the VPnet. Upon completion, the final leg of the MAN to the Columbia Fiber edge at the West Plains will be started. This will ultimately continue on to the EWU Cheney campus.

All of the parts of the project are in process. As progress is made, the team will make the information available.

In the meantime, faculty from various partnering universities are waiting, impatiently, with research projects, ideas, and concepts. Projects will increase in size and complexity as VPnet grows and develops.

"We're very enthusiastic about this project,:" says Dave Moore, Systems Technician at NDM, "It is very exciting and the potential is huge." "We want to see it succeed and be a part of it."

Billie Moreland
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