They lacked access to the latest information, major capital and top centers of commerce and learning. Many felt that you had to go to the big city to really make something of yourself.
But modern communications and media have changed much of that. Today, whether you are in a small town or the largest metropolitan area, you can access a world of information through your computer or even your telephone.
The issue now is keeping up with the technology, and West Virginia has some work to do in building a competitive communications infrastructure. That includes expanding broadband access, wireless technology and connecting the state to more powerful networks.
Marshall University announced an important step on that last objective — one that will soon give schools and non-profits in our region access to a new level of computing and communication power. Marshall is a part of Internet2, a network of more than 330 institutions that provide high-speed bandwidth to the research and education community across the country. Through a program with the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission, that Internet2 connection will now be available to other colleges, public schools, state and local governments, health care facilities, libraries and museums and other partners.
The West Virginia Internet2 Consortium is similar to programs in 40 other states, which have helped extend the reach of the network to an estimated 60,000 schools and non-profits across the United States. The state is getting on board at a great time, too. The fourth generation of the network is being rolled out this year with a capacity of 8.8 terabits per second, up exponentially from the 100 gigabit bandwidth the current Internet2 provides. ‘‘In rural states like West Virginia, Internet2 is the leveling agent that allows us to compete and collaborate globally while still remaining in our beautiful state,’’ said Jan Fox, senior vice president for Information Technology and chief information officer at Marshall. As Rob Vietzke of Internet2 noted recently, this is a great example of how innovation in higher education can benefit the surrounding community.