Overview & History

The Lonestar Education And Research Network (LEARN) is a consortium of 39 organizations throughout Texas that includes public and private institutions of higher education, community colleges, the National Weather Service, and K-12 public schools. The consortium, organized as a 501(c)(3), connects these organizations, and over 600 affiliated organizations, together with high performance optical network services to support their research, education, healthcare and public service missions. LEARN is also a part of a national community of research optical networks, and provides Texas connectivity to the national and international research and education networks.

LEARN's Mission

LEARN is a non-profit collaboration of Texas higher education institutions that supports their research, education, healthcare, and public service missions through the innovative development, operation and utilization of advanced statewide networking, access to global resources, and related services.

LEARN's Vision

To be the premier organization providing advanced network services for research, education, healthcare and economic development throughout Texas. LEARN will be a national model for organizations that serve institutions of higher education. We will provide leadership in creating global networking initiatives.

Creating LEARN

In 2003, a series of meetings were held to forge a shared vision concerning the value of creating a unifying high performance optical network for higher education in Texas. Despite the significant challenges that lay ahead, a consensus soon emerged among higher education leaders that it was strategically important to create an organization dedicated to high performance networking in Texas.

In the summer of 2003, the Texas Legislature endorsed the concept of providing the initial investment of $7.5 million dollars to construct the proposed optical network for Texas. The legislature also endorsed the concept of funding a $2.5 million proposal to develop a grid computing collaborative among the five universities in the Texas Internet Grid for Research and Education (TIGRE). While both projects were authorized by the Legislature, the grants were to be awarded under the auspices of the Texas Enterprises Fund (TEF), if authorized by the Governor, Lieutenant Governor and the Speaker of the House.

In the fall of 2003, it was decided to use the Texas GigaPoP as the 501(c)(3) structure for the new statewide organization that later became LEARN. In January 2004, the officers of the new organization were installed at a Board meeting on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas. The new organization was officially named "LEARN: Lonestar Education And Research Network". Therefore, at that meeting, LEARN was created with a 30 member Board of Directors.

During 2004, LEARN worked with the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House and the Department of Information Resources (DIR) as they studied the merit of authorizing a TEF grant for the optical network project. In the fall of 2004, the elected leadership offices announced that the State of Texas would support funding a TEF grant. The TEF grant provided the initial capital funds to acquire dark fiber and equipment or leased wavelengths for a "triangle" backbone connecting, Dallas, College Station, Houston, San Antonio and Austin with additional connections to El Paso, Lubbock, Denton, Tyler/Longview, Beaumont, Galveston and Corpus Christi.

On February 28, 2005, the Governor signed the TEF grant agreement to provide $7.28 million in funding for the optical network project. LEARN now had the organizational, political and financial means to begin deploying the optical network for Texas.