By Colin M. Stewart, Hawaii Tribune-Herald

Next year, the University of Hawaii will begin upgrading its high-speed Internet pipeline thanks to a $4.6 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The five-year grant will cover the costs associated with operating and upgrading the international research and education network, which includes a series of undersea cables.

Australia’s Academic and Research Network connects Australia to New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii and the West Coast of the U.S. via the submarine Southern Cross Cable Network.

The network, which is not available to the general public, connects to Hawaii in two spots — Kahe Point on Oahu and Spencer Beach near Kawaihae on Hawaii Island.

The upgrades will boost the capacity for the University of Hawaii research network from 40 gigabits per second to 100, said Gwen Jacobs, UH director of cyberinfrastructure.

“One of the big reasons the National Science Foundation invests in us is because (UH) is such a huge scientific asset,” she said.

More and more, sharing data between scientists around the world is how research is done, she said. And as technology improves and the ability to capture data grows, so does the need for a high-speed backbone to share that data.

The Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System atop Haleakala on Maui alone generates 400 terabytes of data in a single evening, she said. That’s equivalent to the data capacity of 6,250 64-gigabyte iPhones.

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