Overview & History

The Lonestar Education And Research Network (LEARN) is a consortium of 39 organizations throughout Texas that includes public and private institutions of higher education, community colleges, the National Weather Service, and K-12 public schools. The consortium, organized 13 years ago as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, connects its members and over 500 affiliated organizations through high performance optical and IP network services to support their research, education, healthcare and public service missions. LEARN is also a leading member of a national community of advance research networks, providing Texas connectivity to national and international research and education networks, enabling cutting-edge research that is increasingly dependent upon sharing large volumes of electronic data.

LEARN's Mission

LEARN is a non-profit collaboration of Texas higher education institutions that supports their research, education, healthcare, and public service missions through the innovative development, operation and utilization of advanced statewide networking, access to global resources, and related services.

LEARN's Vision

To be the premier organization providing advanced network services for research, education, healthcare and economic development throughout Texas. LEARN will be a national model for organizations that serve institutions of higher education. We will provide leadership in creating global networking initiatives.

Creating LEARN

In 2003, a series of meetings of research universities and health science centers in Texas were held to forge a shared vision of creating a unifying high performance optical network for higher education that would partner with an emerging national network dedicated to research. Overcoming the legacy of competition among the attendees and the fiscal and organizational challenges that lay ahead, the universities and health science centers soon reached a consensus that it was strategically important to create an organization dedicated to high performance networking in Texas and to participate in the emerging national network.

In the fall of 2003, the nascent LEARN organization, realizing that it was imperative to have a legal structure around which to center its operations, decided to use the existing Houston-based Texas GigaPoP as the 501(c)(3) structure for the new statewide organization. The following January officers of the new organization were installed at its first Board meeting on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas with the new organization being officially named "LEARN: Lonestar Education And Research Network". Thus LEARN was officially created with a 30-member Board of Directors.

In the fall of 2003, it was decided to use the Texas GigaPoP as the 501(c)(3) structure for the new statewide organization that later became LEARN. In January 2004, the officers of the new organization were installed at a Board meeting on the Southern Methodist University campus in Dallas. The new organization was officially named "LEARN: Lonestar Education And Research Network". Therefore, at that meeting, LEARN was created with a 30 member Board of Directors.

Also in the summer of 2003, the Texas Legislature endorsed the concept of providing an initial investment of $7.5 million dollars to construct the proposed optical network for Texas. That concept was fleshed out in 2004 as LEARN worked with the offices of the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House and the Department of Information Resources (DIR) to study the merit of authorizing a Texas Enterprise Fund grant for the optical network project. In the fall of that year the elected leadership offices announced that the State of Texas would fund a TEF grant to provide the initial capital funds to acquire dark fiber and equipment or leased wavelengths for a "triangle" backbone connecting Dallas, College Station, Houston, San Antonio and Austin with additional connections to El Paso, Lubbock, Denton, Tyler/Longview, Beaumont, Galveston and Corpus Christi.

On February 28, 2005, the Governor signed the TEF grant agreement to provide $7.28 million in funding for the optical network project. LEARN now had the organizational, political and financial means to begin deploying the optical network for Texas. Since its founding, LEARN has expanded both its membership and services. It now connects over 800,000 students enrolled in higher education and over 700,000 students in Texas' public schools. Over 500 organizations rely upon LEARN, either directly or indirectly through LEARN partners, for vital connectivity to local, statewide, national, and international network services.

The reach of LEARN and its importance to networking in the state is demonstrated by the following statistics:

Type of Institution Number of
Institutions Served
Percentage of Texas
Institutions Served
Public Higher Education1 36 97%
Private/Independent Higher Education2 5 13%
Health Science Centers3 13 100%
Public Community College Districts4 19 36%
K-12 Education Service Centers5 17 85%
Independent School Districts6 451 37%
Libraries, Counties, & Other Community Anchor Institutions 33 n/a

1Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board: Texas Higher Education Data - Public Universities www.txhighereddata.org/Interactive/Institutionsshow.cfm?Type=1&Level=1

2Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board: Texas Higher Education Data - Independent Universities www.txhighereddata.org/Interactive/Institutionsshow.cfm?Type=2&Level=1

3Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board: Texas Higher Education Data - Health Related Institutions www.txhighereddata.org/Interactive/Institutionsshow.cfm?Type=1&Level=3

4Source: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board: Texas Higher Education Data - Public Community Colleges www.txhighereddata.org/Interactive/Institutionsshow.cfm?Type=1&Level=2

5Source: Texas Education Agency: Educational Service Center Map tea.texas.gov/regional_services/esc

6Source: Texas Education Agency: AskTED Report Selection tea4avholly.tea.state.tx.us/TEA.AskTED.Web/Forms/ReportSelection.aspx#Criteria