The president of AT&T Wisconsin said his company “completely supports” the UW-Madison’s efforts to stay connected to Internet 2 and other comparable networks dedicated to serving the computing needs of major research universities.

Scott Vander Sanden, president of AT&T in Wisconsin, addressed an Oct. 23 meeting of the Wisconsin Innovation Network in Madison. He was joined by Tom Taibl, AT&T’s regional director of government and education, and Bruce Maas, chief information officer for the UW-Madison.

“AT&T completely supports UWs access to Internet2. We do not want to get in the way of UW’s ability to do world-class research,’’ Vander Sanden said.

However, he added the university and other telecommunications companies in Wisconsin must continue to work out differences that stem from the UW’s past leadership in WiscNet. State law has essentially required the university to withdraw from WiscNet, due to legislative concerns that it gave the public-private network a competitive advantage over private telecom providers.

Maas said the university will fulfill its obligations under the law and continues to work with AT&T and other providers on meeting its needs for Internet connectivity and capacity.

“What we need is continued dialogue,” Maas said, “and to rebuild trust.”

Vander Sanden and Maas agreed the university has two sets of Internet needs – one for extremely fast and high-capacity connections, such as 100-gigabit networks being developed in some states and cities, and another more standard pipeline for educational needs on a daily basis.

“We can’t just build a (100-gigabit) network that nobody uses just to feel good about it,’’ Vander Sanden explained, as the expense of doing so would be prohibitive for most users outside the high-end R&D community.

Vander Sanden noted that AT&T invested $100 million in Wisconsin’s wireless and wired networks in the last year, and $20 billion nationwide. Maas is leading the UW-Madison’s efforts to build a campus-wide network that will boost capacity while connecting the university to Internet2 and related R&D networks. It will use “software-defined networking,” a protocol that promises much more flexibility in design and use.

By Mike Flaherty, WIN-Madison member, president, Flaherty & Associates