CLEMSON — Spirit Communications has donated broadband services valued at $1.4 million to Clemson University, which will connect South Carolina’s premier research universities with a state-of-the-art fiber optic backbone.

Graphic showing fiber optics and students doing research

South Carolina LightRail is a collaborative system designed to provide an advanced high-performance communications infrastructure that will enhance economic development, research, education and health care in South Carolina.

The gift allows Clemson University, the Medical University of South Carolina and the University of South Carolina access to the South Carolina LightRail (SCLR), a high-speed optical network. The access provides network connectivity for research and education between the three major research universities and other entities, both private and public.

“Spirit’s generous gift is critical to Clemson’s success around the state of South Carolina,” said Jim Bottum, Clemson’s vice provost for information technology and chief information officer. “In today’s world, highly available, advanced network connectivity is critical to the majority of our institution’s initiatives, and the Spirit gift will enhance Clemson’s ability to provide this capability to its partners and collaborators on behalf of our faculty, students and staff.”

Spirit Communications CEO and President Bob Keane said his company supports contributions that can make educational and economic differences.

“Spirit Communications, along with our owner companies, is pleased to make this donation in support of the SCLR mission, which increases economic development, enables research between businesses and universities, student instruction and health care research,” he said.

“With its rich heritage and motto of ‘determined spirit,’ Clemson’s research and community involvement are leading the way and improving the quality of life in South Carolina, which aligns perfectly with our goals and focus at Spirit Communications,” Keane said.

South Carolina LightRail is a collaborative system among the three schools designed to provide an advanced high-performance communications infrastructure that will enhance economic development, research, education and health care in South Carolina. It is a public-private partnership to provide a broadband, high-speed optical network that will extend throughout the state and link to regional and national networks, such as Southern Light Rail, National Lambda Rail, Internet2 and SURAgrid and TeraGrid.

Having a top-quality network also greatly improves researchers’ ability to secure grants. Increasingly, the National Science Foundation and other major government and private granting agencies are requiring that grant applicants have ready access to high-speed, high-capacity, dedicated state and regional optical networks for grant applications to receive consideration.

Researchers at Clemson, MUSC and USC are beginning to have greater access to collaborative opportunities throughout the world and are beginning to report more favorable consideration in grant competitions, according to Bottum.

Clemson President James P. Clements thanked Spirit for its continued support of the university.

“I am truly grateful for this continued collaboration between Clemson and Spirit Communications, which will make a lasting impact on the success of our university and our state,” he said. “We are excited to be part of this unique partnership with MUSC and USC, and other public and private entities in the state, to support and enhance research, education, economic development, instruction and health care at Clemson University and throughout the state of South Carolina.”

Spirit also will provide service and upkeep for the network as well as any problem resolution for the length of the contract.

This gift is part of Clemson University’s $1 billion The Will to Lead capital campaign to support faculty and students with scholarships, professorships, facilities and technology.