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The University of Wisconsin System will be transitioning from its broadband provider, WiscNet, to its own network over the next 14 to 18 months, System officials announced Tuesday at the state Capitol.

The transition from WiscNet, a nonprofit organization, was required by the state Legislature that mandated the System to end its relationship with WiscNet by July 1, 2013. WiscNet provided Internet services for the UW System’s 26 campuses, 75 percent of state public school districts and 90 percent of the public library systems for a fraction of the price of competitors

The state-of-the-art new network is expected to cost approximately $33 million for creation, management and maintenance over the next five years, $13 million more than the projected cost of staying with WiscNet for the same period of time.

David Giroux, UW System spokesman, said regardless of the cost the System had no choice but to create its own network after the Legislature said the System could not use WiscNet as a private vendor.

“We have to,” Giroux said. “We have been doing business as a member of WiscNet for 23 years, that’s obviously not allowed anymore. ... There was no other vendor able to meet our needs.”

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The new system will be designed, operated and managed by UW-Madison’s Division of Information Technology and use the latest software, optics technology and equipment to serve all UW institutions. Once it is completed, it will reach established UW affiliates such as research locations, alumni associates and foundations.

The System plans to ask legislators for an extension from its deadline to end their relationship with WiscNet to ensure an easy transition from one network to another.

Steps in the transition have already been made. The UW System representation on the WiscNet’s board of directors has been withdrawn and UW-Madison is no longer a fiscal agent for WiscNet.

By the end of the calendar year WiscNet will no longer employ UW staff.

Public schools and libraries will decide if they want to remain with WiscNet.

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