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USF, UF join high-speed internet expansion effort



The University of South Florida and University of Florida have joined 27 other universities across the country in a call to bring ultra-high-speed Internet connectivity to the areas around their campuses.

The initiative is called the University Next Generation Innovation Project, or Gig.U. Basically, the universities are sending out a Request for Information to service providers, hoping to attract them to their surrounding communities by demonstrating demand. Public dollars won't be used to extend that access. Instead, the universities are hoping the providers will be so enticed by the call that they'll elect to make that investment.

It follows Google's move earlier this year to extend ultra-high-speed Internet access to Kansas City, which was chosen by Google out of 1,100 cities who asked to be considered.

UF spokesman Steve Orlando said the intention is that enabling faster Internet access beyond the university campus will attract start-up companies and spawn economic growth.

"We, the universities, feel that if we can put together our collective efforts, we can help move it along," Orlando said. "The other thing is, it's a public-private partnership, and we think that's the way things are going to be happening more and more in the future."

Blair Levin, of the Aspen Institute for Communications and Society, and Lev Gonick, chief information officer at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, announced the plan in a 10 a.m. conference call.

"When we start with an assumption that a network is a constrained asset, you do get lots of innovation, to be sure," Gonick said. "What happens when a network is all about abundance? What creative juices will flow to improve quality of life around the universities?"

He reminded listeners about an Internet expansion Case Western launched last May, bringing one-gigabit-fiber-optic networking to more than 100 homes near the school. Calling it a "proof point," Gonick touted its success at attracting several start-up companies to the community. 

This is the first step. The "first inning," if you ask Levin. Next, the universities hope to hear from the service providers.

"If we do this right, it's a strong bet," Levin said.

Attached is a letter from Gainesville's mayor and a collection of statements from other universities in support of the project.

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 27, 2011 12:11pm]


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