Sunday, Feb. 4, 2007
crack open SC's knowledge economy
4, 2007 - South Carolina is at a technology crossroads.
If it meets a challenge over the next few months, it will
join states that provide top researchers with the high-speed,
high-volume technology infrastructure. In turn, that has the
potential to open up amazing new knowledge-economy opportunities
for more jobs.
But if the state doesn't meet the challenge, it may start
losing renowned scientists and researchers whose work now
requires the ability to move a lot of data over an extremely
fast fiber-optic network that's connected to the rest of the
"It has to happen," said retired Lexington businessman
Samuel Tenenbaum, who serves as vice-chair of the state's
Research Centers for Economic Excellence. "If you don't
do it, everything will collapse in this state. Either we stay
horse-and-buggy or we go to warp speed."
The project is called South Carolina LightRail. Initial implementation
will connect the state's three major research universities
- Clemson, the University of South Carolina and the Medical
University of South Carolina - and three partner hospitals,
Greenville Hospital System, Palmetto Health and Spartanburg
Regional Healthcare System. Over time, more sites across the
state will be added.
The project's impact to researchers is phenomenal, as highlighted
in an example involving an ongoing brain imaging research
collaboration between USC and MUSC. Currently, it takes 9
minutes to transmit a high-resolution, complicated MRI image
over existing networks. Through LightRail, it would take seconds
- - and the possibility for distortion would be significantly
reduced. (If it's your brain that researchers are looking
at for a diagnosis, you wouldn't want an image to be 99 percent
correct, would you?)
"As we begin to move very complicated clinical images
across the state, the volume of this traffic and the size
of the transmissions will become the bottleneck," said
Dr. Ray Greenberg, president of MUSC. "For the people
using the data, it will be like sitting in gridlock on I-26
in rush hour. LightRail would be the equivalent of adding
dedicated express lanes to speed information around these
It will cost $8 million to $10 million to get the hardware
in place to get LightRail started and, if funded, it could
be working in about six months, officials say. The state Commission
on Higher Education has included a $4.5 million request -
a third each from the research universities - to state lawmakers
to fund this year. The rest of the cost may come from interest
monies that have accumulated in the multi-million dollar endowed
chairs account funded by lottery revenues to attract smart
professors and researchers.
encourage your feedback. If you'd like to respond to
something in SC Statehouse Report, please
send us an e-mail. We reserve the right to edit for
length and clarity. One submission allowed per month.
Submission of a comment grants permission to us to reprint.
Please keep your comment to 250 words or less:
"Since interest money from the endowed chairs program
has not yet been approved for any purpose, this is breaking
new ground, and the board, understandably, wants to make sure
that it is done in a manner consistent with the original legislation,"
Greenberg said. "This is an expensive venture, but in
the big scheme of economic competitiveness, it is both essential
and a modest investment. "
Dr. William F. Hogue, USC's vice president for information
technology and its chief information officer, says the state
needs SC LightRail because it currently is operating at a
competitive disadvantage. He said the state could lose the
ability to win more than $117 million in targeted federal
grants without the new technology framework.
Two or three years ago, the state was essentially on par
with other parts of the country, he said. But when a national,
dedicated high-speed network opened for researchers, the state
didn't participate. Now, as costs have actually gone down,
it's a perfect time for the investment.
"We're not decades behind, but in information technology
generation terms, we're about two generations behind,"
Hogue said. "This [investment] will allow us to make
up a three-year gap."
It's almost a no-brainer for state lawmakers to approve investment
in the high-speed network. Why? Because if we continue to
work hard to attract smart people to serve as endowed professors
at research universities, they have to have the tools they
need to do the smart work we want them to do. If they don't
have the right technology, the whole concept of luring smart
folks and their research teams to the state to do work that
can create new high-paying jobs here just doesn't make sense.
Andy Brack, publisher of S.C. Statehouse
Report, can be reached at email@example.com.
it's not what you think it is...
Another great cartoon from Bill McLemore:
best way to get South Carolina news is to augment your morning
paper and TV show with SC Clips, a daily executive
news summary compiled from more than 30 state newspaper and
TV sources. It's delivered every business day and is packed
with news of statewide impact, politics, business and more.
Subscriptions are affordable at $30 per month -- and less
for business subscribers. More: SC
How you can subscribe to the full edition
of the report
The above version of S.C. Statehouse Report is the
free edition. Our paid version, which costs about $100 per
month, offer a weekly legislative forecast packed with information
that can keep you and your business on the cutting edge. There's
a new limited paid version for individuals that costs about
$30 per month. More on subscribing.
Notes veteran lawmaker Sen. Glenn McConnell: "Statehouse
Report gives an inside practical report of weekly problems
with and progress of legislation. It reviews the whole landscape."
In each issue of Statehouse Report, you'll get:
- Hot news
-- an early peek on something really big that will happen
at the Statehouse. We continually beat other news organizations
in finding major trends in issues, from teacher and budget
cuts to wetlands proposals.
- Agenda -- a weekly forecast of
the coming week's floor agenda
- Radar Screen -- a behind-the-scenes
look at what's really going on in the General Assembly
- Palmetto Politics
-- Tidbits from the world of South Carolina politics.
- McLemore's World -- an early view
of our respected cartoonist Bill McLemore.
- Tally Sheet -- a weekly review
of all of the new bills introduced in the legislature in
- Blogroll -- a weekly summary of
the best of South Carolina political blogs.
- Scorecard -- A Thumbs Up and Thumbs
Down of major political/policy events for the week.
- Calendar -- a weekly list of major
meetings for the House, Senate and state agencies.
- Megaphone -- a quote of the week
that you'll find illuminating.
To learn more about subscriptions, contact Andy Brack at:
South Carolina Statehouse Report
Publisher: Andy Brack
| Assistant Editor: Betsy
Phone: 843.670.3996 · Fax: 843.722.9887
Subscription or sponsorship Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Have an event for the SC Statehouse Report calendar?
E-mail details to: email@example.com
or fax to above number.