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08/31/2004 - VPnet Celebrates Completion

Years of hard work by community innovators who helped in the creation of Spokane's VPnet (Virtual Possibilities Network) will be celebrated at the ceremonial launch of the ready-to-use VPnet. The celebration will be Thursday September 23, at 10:30 a.m. at the Ag Trade Center Conference Theater, just prior to the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce's annual meeting. "This launch event is to thank all of the people who worked so hard to make VPnet happen," says Steve Trabun, Project Consultant for Avista Corporation.

Participants in the creation of VPnet included various committee members, including the VPnet steering committee, business plan advisors, operating workgroup, and technology workgroup as well as faculty and researchers that participated in numerous focus group sessions. Institution leaders and faculty from each of the participating organizations made significant contributions. Many of the participating organizations are members of the Chamber-sponsored Higher Education Leadership Group (HELG). Over one hundred individuals contributed hundreds of hours to make VPnet a major asset for our region. "We're so excited we can hardly stand it," enthused Judy Cole, Director of Business and Public Affairs for Avista Corporation. "It's been a long time coming, and it's just really amazing." VPnet is now incorporating as a non-profit entity in the state of Washington and is filing for 501(c)(3) status.

Speakers at the VPnet launch will include Scott Morris, President of Avista Utilities; Jaron Lanier, Senior Research Scientist, International Computer Science Institute, Berkeley; and Phillip J. Bond, Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology. Both Lanier and Bond will also separately deliver in-depth speeches at the Chamber's annual meeting from 11:30 to 1:30 immediately following the launch.

Concept displays of four projects targeted by VPnet will be on view, and the early adopters whose projects they represent will be available to explain their ideas. The four projects and the innovators include:
CopyCat Caption Company, Barbara and John Gale, who provide real time open captioning for the hearing impaired. They will have a diorama that will describe how they use speech recognition technology and other software to create captioning for classroom use.
Inland Northwest Collaborative E-learning Project, (INCEP), Steve Simmons, PhD, EWU Computer Science, will have a scale model of the distance learning classroom of the future.
Virtual Reality Research Scientists, Uma and Jay Jayaram, WSU Pullman, will have a display of their latest work in virtual reality.
LIFTS (Lifeplan Improvement and Feasible Transportation Services), Kerry Brooks, PhD, WSU Spokane Interdisciplinary Design Institute, will show how using the Internet accessible GIS (geographic information system) components and shuttle van transportation can help provide people in welfare-to-work programs with information and services that would assist them in accessing job training and employment.
VPnet will not replace nor compete with, private enterprise connectivity providers. The network is for educational use, research and development, and proof of concept only. No commercial enterprise is allowed to give up a primary connection to utilize VPnet. The intent of VPnet, from a research and development standpoint, is to utilize the network to prove a concept. Once a concept reaches possible commercialization and/or the company has incubated to the point where it is sustainable, it is the intent of VPnet to be replaced by purchased connectivity ---lit or dark fiber or wireless --- from a local connectivity provider.

Spearheaded by donations from Avista and Columbia Fiber Solutions, VPnet founding members are Community Colleges of Spokane, Eastern Washington University (EWU) Cheney, EWU Spokane Riverpoint, Gonzaga University, North Idaho College, University of Idaho (UI) Moscow, UI Post Falls, Washington State University (WSU) College of Nursing, WSU Pullman, WSU Spokane Riverpoint, Whitworth College, and Spokane Public Schools. In addition to the educational institutions, commitments to participate have also been made by Inland Northwest Health Services (INHS), Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and SIRTI. Cisco Systems and their Gold Certified Partner NEC Unified Solutions, Inc. were the selected vendors to provide the technology framework. EDS and Avista have contributed network operations services to install, implement, manage, and support the network at carrier class levels.

For more information about VPnet, visit

Billie Moreland
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