Prince George plans high-speed Transit Exchange

There’s a new off-ramp for the high-speed Internet in British Columbia’s North.

BC Net, the University of Northern British Columbia and the City of Prince George signed a memorandum of understanding Friday to promote local innovation and the technology sector. Highlighting the agreement is the new Prince George Transit Exchange, which will be jointly operated by the three parties and bring high-speed connectivity into downtown Prince George, with its location in city hall.

The exchange will also connect UNBC researchers and educators to their counterparts across the province via the provincial ORAN (Optical Regional Advanced Network), and across Canada through CANARIE’s Ca*net4.

Patrick Mann, UNBC’s director of computer & telecommunications services, says the network will give the university a 100 times increase in connectivity. It will provide a big advantage to UNBC researchers working collaboratively with their colleagues at other B.C. institutions connected, like Simon Fraser University and the British Columbia Institute of Technology, he added. 

The network will also facilitate the creation of a medical program for the university, designed to help a region that is under-serviced by physicians. Mann says the Northern Medical Program will see UNBC act as a satellite campus of the University of British Columbia’s medical school. Medical students won’t have to leave Prince George, save the odd specialized lecture or internship, to get their degree. And at the end, the partners hope, they’ll stay and work in the North. 

“”We’ll have a medical campus at UNBC, using extensively distributed education and research techniques from UBC’s medical school,”” says Mann. “”Something like ORAN gives us the bandwidth to actually deliver the course content involved and make it possible.””

Working with the community is important to UNBC, and BC Net president Michael Hrybyk says by building the exchange in Prince George rather than running circuit right to the university, the community will benefit from a 2 gigabit linkup.

Hrybyk adds that by building the exchange in the city, BC Net, a consortium of B.C.’s universities that strive to provide greater connectivity among one another, will also cut its costs.

“”The thinking of it is, put the exchange in one spot and invest in fibre out to the university from that point,”” says Hrybyk. “”And, just maybe, as a result, the other installations around that central point can take advantage of it. That’s what’s happened in Prince George to a tee.””

Already the local library, city hall and Prince George Regional Hospital have been able to connect cost effectively, and Hrybyk says the whole network should be completely up and running within 60 days.

With a growing technology cluster beginning to take shape in Prince George, Hrybyk says he sees this hub as potentially providing a great benefit to spur future growth.

“”One of the benefits of smaller cities like Prince George is that putting in fibre optic infrastructure in the downtown core isn’t as problematic as it would be in Vancouver,”” says Hrybyk. “”The flexibility of a Prince George in being able to roll out advanced services could help the technology industry grow and prove to be a real competitive advantage down the road.””

Jeff Jedras is’s B.C. correspondent.

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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