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History of the ICN

The ICN Story - Bringing the State Together

In the early 80's Iowa community colleges were the first to experiment with educational networks for distance learning. Several community colleges planned and installed separate microwave-based telecommunications networks. In mid-1989, a bill was passed and signed providing for the construction of a shared, statewide telecommunications network.

Construction on Parts I and II of the Network began in late 1990. This consisted of installing one fiber optic endpoint per county (99), an endpoint at each of the three state universities, one at IPTV, and one on the State Capitol Complex for a total of 104 endpoints. ICN became a State agency in 1994 and the Iowa Telecommunications and Technology Commission (ITTC) was established by the Legislature as the ICN's governing body. Telemedicine and federal government were given authorized user status.

The Governor then signed a plan in 1995 establishing Part III of the Network, which consisted of adding full-motion video sites to public and private school districts, area education agencies, and public libraries throughout Iowa.

Parts I, II, and III

The 104 endpoints of Parts I and II became operational in 1993. caterpillar tractor digging trench and laying cable in the ground along the highwayThe first Part III site became operational at Battle Creek-Ida Grove High School in 1995. Later that year, the first armory, Audubon Armory, was designated as a community learning center and connected to the ICN. Use of ICN services at armories continues to assist the National Guard in training and allows Iowans another place to access ICN video services.

A major milestone was met in late 1997 when the 500th full-motion video classroom was connected to the ICN, followed by the 600th classroom the very next year. The original design of the Network, at full maturity, only planned for 500 classrooms.

Fine Tuning the Technology

Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) and MPEG-2 Technologies

From 2000 - 2002, the ICN began to upgrade the backbone of the Network to Asynchronous Transfercaterpillar tractor digging trench and laying cable Mode (ATM) and MPEG-2 technologies. The switch to ATM technology allowed for higher speed transmission of information for video, Internet, and long distance voice communications. MPEG-2 video equipment allowed for increased bandwidth efficiency, improving the quality of full-motion, two-way interactive video. Deployment of an ICN ring topology structure continued, featuring two-way uninterrupted signal transmission for increased dependability. The Network upgrade was completed in 2002.

Wide area network (WAN) Ethernet service was offered beginning in 2003, allowing customers to share software and equipment at little cost compared to frame relay and dedicated circuits. Traditional Ethernet is commonly found on local area networks (LANs).

Moving from ATM to Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS)

ICN continued to add new technologies as the industry evolved and user demand increased.  ICN started deploying core 10 Gbps switches in 2006, using MPLS.  The ICN also started deploying a core router network shortly afterward.  Both were essentially complete by 2009, with 18 core switches and 12 core routers, though additional router sites will be added as traffic warrants.  This change to MPLS allows the network to be more flexible for different types of data, so a different platform isn’t required for each different type of service.  The receipt of a BTOP (Broadband Technology Opportunities Program) grant expedited this migration for the transport to move from ATM to MPLS.  The majority of the aggregation sites and edge sites were converted when the BTOP grant ended 6/30/2013.

IP Core Network Infrastructure Upgrade

In 2022, ICN completed the network upgrade to its IP core infrastructure. The upgrade involved implementing and maintaining a native 100GB core network, throughout the State, which is scalable up to 200GB as needed. The Network operates multiple optical rings built on fiber that provides redundant paths that allow traffic to flow bidirectional establishing better network reliability.  The 100GB core passes traffic to our aggregation locations at 10GB. This allows the ICN the ability to deliver multiple 10GB facilities to our customers. 

In this proactive measure, the Network is prepared to manage the increasing current and future bandwidth needs of our users. With the added capacity at the Core, the ICN can securely carry the State’s voice, Internet and data traffic as needed, without degradation.


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