EU Opens High-Speed Internet Connections for Researchers in Caucasus

BRUSSELS (Xinhua)–The European Commission on Tuesday linked researchers in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia to a pan-European ultra-speed computer network, called GEANT.

The commission switched on a 1.75 million euro ($2.27 million) computer network, the Black Sea Interconnection, linking researchers in the three South Caucasus countries and connecting them to GEANT, which already serves 30 million researchers both in the European Union (EU) and some other parts of the world.

The EU provided 1.4 million euros, or 80 percent of the funding, said the commission, which serves as the European Union’s executive body.

The high-speed connections (from 34 to 100 Megabits per second) will enable a far greater level of collaboration between researchers and scientists in the South Caucasus region.

According to the Commission, the network also promises to impact daily life in the region by improving access to and quality of healthcare such as allowing doctors to remotely diagnose conditions and prescribe treatment to poor and isolated rural.

"By investing 1.4 million euros funding in this project, we will bridge a major digital divide by connecting scientists from the Black Sea region to the global research community, providing high-speed internet connections to universities and research centers in the South Caucasus,” said Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information society and media. “I expect better collaboration with GEANT’s 4,000 EU research institutions will lead to better research and better results in Europe and beyond.”

GEANT, which also links seven Mediterranean countries, five Balkan countries, five Central Asian countries, 14 Asian countries,12 Latin American countries, as well as the United States and Canada, allows researchers to communicate at a speed of 10 Gigabits per second, said European Commission spokesman Martin Selmayr.

GEANT is a 200 million euro ($260 million) project, which received almost half its funding from the EU between 2004 and 2009.

The Black Sea Interconnection project stems from an earlier EU-funded project and replaces the NATO-funded "Virtual Silk Highway" which used satellite connections to provide high-speed and high capacity internet connection to GEANT for the South Caucasus and Central Asia, but was unable to meet the ever increasing connectivity and collaboration needs of the scientific community.

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