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At the Broadband Breakfast Club, We’ll Explore ‘What Can Gigabit Do for Me?’

in Broadband Data/Broadband's Impact/FCC/Fiber/NTIA/Wireless by

May 15, 2013 – Gigabit-level connectivity is all the rage. It seems that everyone is asking, What Can Gigabit Do for Me?

More and more companies and communities — from established communications companies to new market entrants — have announced plans for deployment that cross that psychological Gigabit-level threshold.

But its also important to ask: from a consumer perspective, what’s the difference between being able to receive 1,000 Megabits per second (or a Gigabit, on other words), and the ability for a consumer to receive 100, 200 or 300 Megabits per second?

The 100+ Mbps club includes many of the nation’s major cable operators, including Comcast, which has effectively deployed DOCSIS 3.0 across its entire national broadband footprint. This next-generation cable modem technology enables at least 150 Mbps of download speeds. Even that number, at 150 Mbps, is far more than that for which consumers have found the need.

Among established telecommunications companies, Verizon’s Fiber Optic Service is now available at speeds of up to 300 Mbps. Those kinds of speed are now available to more than 13 million consumers in nine Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states, plus parts of Florida, Texas, California and the District of Columbia.

As the National Broadband Map has demonstrated, broadband speeds and availability have been steadily increasing over the past four years. This is due to DOCSIS 3.0, to FiOS, and to a dramatic uptick in the adoption of the wireless LTE technologies.

When it comes to the fastest speeds, wireless plays second-fiddle. And cities across the county that want the maximum bang for their buck in economic development are flocking to Kansas City — the site of Google Fiber’s first Gigabit class build — to see what lessons they can learn.

Following in the footsteps of the Broadband Communities conference last month in Dallas; and the Schools, Health and Library Broadband Coalition in Washington earlier this month; two weeks from now the Fiber to the Home Council will convene in Kansas City around the enticing theme, “From Gigabit Envy to Gigabit Deployed.”

At the next Broadband Breakfast Club in Washington, on Tuesday, May 21, we’ll also consider the theme of the Gigabit Nation. Here’s our twist on the subject matter: How different is Gigabit-level connectivity from 100 or 200 or 300 Mbps-level connectivity?

While cities like Kansas City, Chattanooga and Lafayette, Louisiana, have built Gigabit Networks, are they getting anything more for their troubles? Or will the label “Gigabit” simply be the latest telecommunications fad to pass through?

Perhaps one key answer lies in the realm of applications development. What high-bandwidth applications are necessary to make a Gigabit City work? And how can lessons learned in one city be shared with others?

We’re very excited about the panel of experts that we have assembled for the Broadband Breakfast Club on Tuesday, May 21:

  • Sheldon Grizzle, Founder & Co-Director, GIGTANK in Chattanooga, Tennessee
  • Kevin McElearney, Senior Vice President, Network Engineering & Technical Operations, Comcast Cable
  • David Sandel, President, Gigabit Communities and Smart Cities, Sandel & Associates
  • William Wallace, Executive Director, US Ignite
  • Scott J. Wallsten, Vice President for Research & Senior Fellow, Technology Policy Institute

More information and registration is available at http://broadbandbreakfast.eventbrite.com. I’ll be moderating the discussion next Tuesday, and I look forward to seeing you at the Broadband Breakfast Club in Washington!

Gigabit Fever Spreads from the Heartland Across the Nation; Giving Gigabit Credit Where Credit is Due

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/Fiber/National Broadband Plan/The Innovation Economy by

WASHINGTON, May 3, 2013 – It’s springtime across the country, the flowers are blooming, and Gigabit fever must be in the air.

Within the past month, several major companies and communities have announced plans for Gigabit-level deployments within their communities. Several major conferences have featured the Gigabit theme, including the Schools, Health and Library Broadband Coalition event here on Thursday and Friday.

Even the Federal Communications Commission has gotten in on the act: one of the last major initiatives of outgoing agency Chairman Julius Genachowski was the workshop on “Gigabit Community Broadband Networks,” on March 27, 2013.

As the Executive Director of Broadband Illinois, the statewide non-profit entity responsible for promoting internet engagement and broadband planning in the Land of Lincoln, we’re very heartened by this development.

Our governor, Gov. Pat Quinn, has been at the forefront of the benefits of better broadband for many, many years.

When it comes to promoting advanced internet connectivity, many public servants talk about the importance of Gigabit-level connectivity. Gov. Quinn has acted. Well over a year ago, Quinn announced the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge in his 2012 “State of the State” Address.

“Through this challenge, we want our neighborhoods to become Gigabit communities with Internet connections more than 100 times faster than today,” Quinn declared in the February 1, 2012, address. “Our goal is to build smart communities that will foster the job engines of the future.” The challenge allocated up to $6 million in funds for communities seeking an award.

The next step was an open and public competition, in which communities and providers were eligible to put forward applicants that would serve at least 1,000 end users to an ultra-high-speed broadband network. Applicants for the Illinois Gigabit Communities Challenge were encouraged to demonstrate ways to improve economic opportunities, foster economic development through the expansion of “smart communities,” increase the number of residents with college degrees, connect health care professionals with their patients, and position Illinois’ universities to continue leading the nation in research, innovation, and technology.

By the June 30, 2012, deadline, Illinois had received 40 applications, from communities and providers, for Gigabit connectivity. Thus far, three winners have been announced: Gigabit Squared on the South Side of Chicago — in a project that proposes to serve nine neighborhoods across the community; the City of Aurora, about an hour west of Chicago; and the City of Evanston/Northwest University, just north of Chicago. Additional award-winners have yet to be announced.

What does the activity in Illinois say about the viability of Gigabit connectivity?

Whether a proposed Gigabit project is on the metropolitan scale (as with Google Fiber’s builds in Kansas City, KS, and Kansas City, MO) or within a portion of a city (as with Gigabit Squared’s venture on Chicago’s South Side), Gigabit connectivity is the next major leap in broadband access.

Over the past four years, broadband speeds and availability have been steadily increasing. The maps that we produce at Broadband Illinois, at http://broadbandillinois.org/maps, and which feed into the National Broadband Map, demonstrate substantial progress on this front. This is due to the advanced DOCSIS 3.0 cable modems, to increased penetrated and speeds of the wireless LTE standard, to rural-friendly wireless internet service providers, and to co-ops and telecom companies that have been continuing updating their fiber plants.

Now, Gigabit-level connectivity is the next major step.

Google Fiber drew headlines for this issue through its “Think Big With a Gig” campaign in 2009. That led first to the selection of Kansas City.

Also highlighting the importance of Gigabit-level connectivity has been Blair Levin, the former director of the FCC’s National Broadband Plan in 2010. He’s taken the ambitious goals of that plan and worked to translate them into to action through the Gig.U. consortium of 37 universities seeking Gigabit-level connectivity in their surrounding communities.

Now, it seems like everyone is getting in on the act. On April 9, 2013, Google announced that Austin, Texas, was its next stop.  A few hours later, AT&T announced that it, too, would build Gigabit-level service in Austin. A little more than a week later, Provo, Utah, was in the spotlight. And just this week, the telecommunications company CenturyLink announced that it will tee up Gigabit service in Omaha, Nebraska.

All of this is a great testament to bringing the most advanced-level connectivity to cities throughout the State of Illinois, and to our country.

Google asked us to Think Big With a Gigabit. Gov. Quinn in Illinois took the next step in fostering the smart communities that will be the places for investment, jobs, and the commerce of the future.

Now, as Gigabit fever spreads across the nation, it’s time for us think even bigger.

For governors and mayors and businesses across the country, and for the next Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission: Let’s make high-capacity bandwidth the strategic advantage that America needs to tap into the talents of our communities, our manufacturers, our students and our entrepreneurs.

Drew Clark is the Executive Director of Broadband Illinois, a non-profit organization based in Abraham Lincoln’s Springfield. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter. He brings experts and practitioners together to advance Better Broadband, Better Lives. As the designed State Broadband Initiative entity, Broadband Illinois (officially known as the Partnership for a Connected Illinois) receives funds from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and the State of Illinois, as well as through private sector donations.

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