Editor’s Note: Several months ago, Drew Clark’s column from the Deseret News of Salt Lake City, Utah, touched upon some of the important parallels between the most prominent infrastructure investment of the 20th Century – electricity – and the emerging essential fiber-optic infrastructure of the 21st Century. With increased discussion about the significant of the applications that run Gigabit Networks, including the upcoming Broadband Communities Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, it is reprinted here.
SALT LAKE CITY — It’s easy to plug a refrigerator, television, alarm clock or toothbrush into a wall socket. We forget the lesson that electricity became widely available only after a single application — the light bulb — caught the imagination and desire of the public.
Electricity is history. Today we face the next-generation infrastructure: gigabit networks. Global visionaries here in Utah see the need for these communication networks, even as they struggle to explain the “light bulb” that will make it plain why a super-fast Internet network is as necessary as running water and a universal electric grid.
One of these visionaries is Glenn Ricart, an unassuming man who moved his family here from the East Coast 20 years ago. The late Ray Noorda recruited him as chief technology officer at Novell. A renowned technologist, Ricart set up the first Internet exchange point at the University of Maryland in 1986. Two years ago, he was inducted into the Internet Hall of Fame.
Ricart’s recent energies have been devoted to co-founding an ambitious venture known as US Ignite. Its goal is next-generation applications with “transformative public benefit.”
What are those? Of the 476 technologies submitted to US Ignite, none have yet emerged as the light bulb thatwill answer skeptics who believe a few megabits of connectivity should be enough to satisfy anyone’s need for Internet movies, music and email.
They include real-time emergency response systems, air pollution monitoring, collaborative virtual reality surgery and analyses of traffic congestion. US Ignite is particularly keen on applications that advanceeducation and workforce, energy, health care, public safety, transportation and advanced manufacturing.