July 28, 2011 — The University of Virginia, along with 28 other universities and communities nationwide, on Wednesday launched Gig.U: The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project.
Drawing on America's rich history of community-led innovation in research and entrepreneurship, Gig.U seeks to accelerate the deployment of ultra high-speed networks to leading U.S. universities and their surrounding communities. Improvements to these networks drive economic growth and stimulate a new generation of innovations addressing critical needs, such as health care and education, according to a Gig.U press release.
"We fully support the purpose of the project," said Mike McPherson, U.Va. associate vice president and deputy chief information officer.
"We see Gig.U as an economic development and global competitiveness imperative. Much of the developed world is way ahead of us in the availability of ultra high-speed broadband connectivity for businesses and individuals at affordable prices. In the U.S., ultra high-speed broadband is rarely available outside of universities," he explained.
University communities increasingly depend on high-speed networks to educate, collaborate and share large amounts of information instantaneously. Research in real time has fueled the growth of the global information economy, yet today's market for bandwidth services does not address the particular needs of university communities. Gig.U says its mission is to create a favorable climate for next-generation network test-beds and trigger a new generation of high-speed networking offerings for these communities.
McPherson said, "Bringing ultra high-speed broadband connections to our communities is important because research university communities are major centers of innovation and economic development. Availability of this kind of connectivity will help make our community very attractive to faculty, staff and student entrepreneurs who are creating the next wave of communications-enabled services."
He also believes that with the new technology, advances in high-end video conferencing, telemedicine and data-enabled collaboration will be seen. "Gig.U is not just about how fast the connection is," he said. "It's also about other capabilities and characteristics required for advanced applications."
U.Va. has already invested in this level of connectivity, providing ultra high-speed broadband in offices, labs and residence halls, McPherson said. "By bringing this level of connectivity into the local community – to individuals and businesses in the innovation zones surrounding our campuses – we will stimulate the next wave of technology-enabled creativity and economic growth," he explained.
Gig.U universities and their surrounding communities have the most favorable conditions for a market-based, ultra high-speed broadband strategy, including dense populations and high demand from institutions and residential customers. These communities have long served as partners and test-beds for advances in market segments ranging from health care and education to technology and energy, according to a Gig.U press release.
Through an open request for information process, Gig.U will gather data on these specific segments with an intent to inform high-speed service providers of new implementation approaches, and to enable competition to bring high-speed networks to research communities. The group's goal is to translate the RFI process into tailored requests for proposals for deploying cutting-edge networking technology in a matter of years, not decades.
Gig.U is envisioned as a three-way partnership between the University, local community and telecommunication providers," McPherson said. "We plan to demonstrate to commercial providers that there is sufficient demand for these services in our communities to support a profitable business model. Having demonstrated demand, we will work with them to create an environment in which they can test the model."