Ont-Mich launch international optical fiber network through tunnel

WINDSOR, Ont. — Ontario and Michigan have officially interconnected their high-speed optical research and education networks utilizing the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel.

The direct fiber connection is believed to be a first across international borders for regional research and education networks.

The new cross-border link, passing through the tunnel infrastructure, was marked at an official optical fiber splicing ceremony at Windsor City Hall.

Detroit-Windsor Tunnel enhances transport science

Officials from the City of Windsor, the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network (ORION) and Merit Network — which operates Michigan’s research and education network — presided over the symbolic splice of optical fiber of the new cross-border link

“This link is of immense future value to Ontario and Michigan,” said ORION President/CEO Phil Baker, who noted the connection will make it easier for researchers and institutions to collaborate and pursue new cross-border partnerships in science and learning.

“Merit’s member institutions are very excited about this achievement,” added John Camp, CIO of Wayne State University and chair of the Merit Board of Directors. “We see this as a critical step in developing a Regional Optical Network (RON) in the Great Lakes Region. A Great Lakes RON will eliminate geographic barriers for cross-institutional and cross-border collaborative research.”

Added Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis: “The speed-of-light exchange of information by optical fiber is crucial to the continued growth of our region’s communications capacities, and for education, research and development in all sectors.”

The new Detroit-Windsor connection has the capacity to transmit large amounts of data at very fast speeds. It can transmit the equivalent of a full data CD in just under a second. There are also plans to boost the capacity from the current one Gigabit per second link to multiple wavelengths creating one of the most advanced optical infrastructures of its kind in the world.

Officials also see the link as a first step toward creating a new Great Lakes and Atlantic Research Alliance, involving ORION, Merit and advanced networks in New York and Quebec. A similar cross-border connection is being finalized between Fort Erie, Ontario and Buffalo, New York.

“The Tunnel Corporation is pleased to have had a part in facilitating this international collaboration between these two research and education networks,” said Neal Belitsky, executive vice-president and GM of the Detroit and Canada Tunnel Corporation.

Baker also acknowledged the critical support of the University of Windsor and the Windsor Essex Development Network (WEDnet), a part of the Centre for Smart Community Innovation. He also acknowledged the Government of Ontario, a key contributor to the project.

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