CWRU leads national effort to develop ultra high-speed networks

Gig-UThis morning, Case Western Reserve University joined more than 20 universities and communities across the country in the launch of Gig.U, The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project. Gig.U, which is modeled after the Case Connection Zone, aims to deploy ultra-high-speed networks to leading U.S. universities and their surrounding communities.

Universities increasingly depend on high-speed networks for all aspects of research and education, but the market for bandwidth services doesn’t yet meet the needs of higher education institutions, according to a statement from Gig.U.

To transform this situation, Gig.U will gather data on market dynamics in university communities to drive providers toward new approaches and compete to bring these networks to research communities.

“Universities have the privilege of living the future today,” said Chief Technology Officer Lev Gonick, who spoke at Gig.U’s launch in Washington, D.C., this morning. “Our ability as universities to partner with the neighborhoods around us provides a path for new innovation, new service models and new product offerings that advance both our research and development activities and the priorities of the community around us. That ends up being extremely important for the health and well being of both our great universities and the cities that we live in.”

The project begins with university communities for two reasons, said Blair Levin, fellow at Aspen Institute for Communications and Society and former executive director of National Broadband Plan. First, there are lower costs of deployment with high levels of demand in these communities. Secondly, he explained at this morning’s press conference, the public benefit is strongest in these communities because the bandwidth will be used “not just to consume, but to create.”

Case Western Reserve has a history of creating innovative network activity on campus and in the Cleveland community. “We were one of the first universities on ARPANet, the NSF-funded network that pre-dated the Internet,” Gonick said. “We were the first university to envision the value of public access to services provided over the network through Cleveland Freenet. We were the first campus to embrace gigabit fiber networks for our own campus.”

The university is home to Case Connection Zone, which aims to provide Internet connectivity to the neighborhoods surrounding CWRU and University Circle, including 100 residences on Hessler Road. As the nation’s first gigabit fiber-to-home research program, Case Connection Zone gained national attention during the research and writing of the National Broadband Plan in 2009 and 2010 and has since gained international acclaim, Gonick explained. Case Connection Zone served as a prototype for Gig.U.

With Gig.U, CWRU and other participating institutions hope to advance economic growth, innovation and global leadership. “We want to attract and retain the best and brightest students, scholars and researchers to bring distinction to our universities, and we want to jumpstart never-before-seen ideas into globally competitive companies that will bring new jobs and wealth and enhance the quality of living in the cities within which we live, work, study and play,” Gonick said.

For more information on Gig.U, visit www.gig-u.org.

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