The expansion of BCNET’s fibre optic network to Prince George will create new opportunities in health services, education and research.
As of July 20, the super broadband network linked Prince George to Vancouver and the world at 10 gigabytes per second fast enough to download a full-length feature film in two seconds. The upgraded network is five times faster than previous BCNET service to the North.
Currently UNBC, Northern Health, Telus, Bell and the Prince George Public Library are linked to the BCNET system.
Northern Medical Program technical operations manager Michael Easton said the expanded network will allow improved video conferencing and data-sharing between the Northern Medical Program and the medical faculty at UBC.
“It’s fantastic. BCNET is the backbone for the Northern Medical Program,” Easton said. “Right now we’re limited by the hardware we have. (But) we have the whole candy store in front of us.”
Video conferencing is a critical component of the Northern Medical Program, allowing students in Prince George to take part in lectures held at UBC in Victoria.
The program already uses a high-quality video conferencing system which requires one to three megabytes per second of bandwidth, Easton explained. However, with the expanded BCNET service, it would be possible to upgrade to the same standard used by high-definition televisions.
“It means more detail. And that’s what the Northern Medical Program is all about, detail, because they’re studying the human body.”
In addition to video conferencing, students access “virtual slides” showing detailed images of human anatomy, viruses, etc. The higher-speed network will allow faster transfer of larger and higher-quality slides, he explained.
Currently students gather in classroom to participate in the videoconferences. With the expanded capacity students may no longer be tied to the lecture hall. It may be possible for students to link into videoconferences using a laptop.
“Right now the curriculum will be going through a renewal over the next year or so,” Easton said. “It’s going to be very exciting.”
The technology will also benefit health care services in the region.
“Health care is increasingly reliant on the secure and efficient flow of patient information,” Northern Health associate vice president of information services Joseph Mendez said in a press release. “This network enhancement will further support our existing infrastructure in providing further redundancy and capacity to ensure that the clinical information needs of health providers are available securely and efficiently.”