On Forbes today, I have a long article on the progress being made to build gigabit Internet testbeds in the U.S., particularly by Gig.U.
Gig.U is a consortium of research universities and their surrounding communities created a year ago by Blair Levin, an Aspen Institute Fellow and, recently, the principal architect of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan. Its goal is to work with private companies to build ultra high-speed broadband networks with sustainable business models .
Gig.U, along with Google Fiber’s Kansas City project and the White House’s recently-announced US Ignite project, spring from similar origins and have similar goals. Their general belief is that by building ultra high-speed broadband in selected communities, consumers, developers, network operators and investors will get a clear sense of the true value of Internet speeds that are 100 times as fast as those available today through high-speed cable-based networks. And then go build a lot more of them.
Google Fiber, for example, announced last week that it would be offering fully-symmetrical 1 Gbps connections in Kansas City, perhaps as soon as next year. (By comparison, my home broadband service from Xfinity is 10 Mbps download and considerably slower going up.)
US Ignite is encouraging public-private partnerships to build demonstration applications that could take advantage of next generation networks and near-universal adoption. It is also looking at the most obvious regulatory impediments at the federal level that make fiber deployments unnecessarily complicated, painfully slow, and unduly expensive.
I think these projects are encouraging signs of native entrepreneurship focused on solving a worrisome problem: the U.S. is nearing a dangerous stalemate in its communications infrastructure. We have the technology and scale necessary to replace much of our legacy wireline phone networks with native IP broadband. Right now, ultra high-speed broadband is technically possible by running fiber to the home. Indeed, Verizon’s FiOS network currently delivers 300 Mbps broadband and is available to some 15 million homes.