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City of Seattle

August 8, 11:07 AM click here to comment > 0

UW launches broadband initiative

The University of Washington, along with 27 other leading American universities, recently announced the foundation of Gig.U, an initiative that seeks to expand the availability of high-capacity fiber optic broadband in communities bordering campuses. Universities will seek infrastructure investments from broadband providers in order to connect the neighborhoods that support them with high-quality broadband connections.

Here in Seattle, UW is home to a variety of world-class institutions, including the Information School, a leader information science for over 100 years, and Computer Science and Engineering programs which incubate both people and technology who “push the envelope” of technology innovation.  As a major research institution collaborating with scholars, governments and businesspeople all over the world, UW has a huge demand for bandwidth.

The UW campus is served today by fiber optic connections to the Seattle Fiber Partners network, which is owned jointly by local governments and agencies including the University, the City of Seattle and King County, as well as the Northwest Gigapop, the next generation national Internet. Fiber optic cables are capable of delivering speeds of up to a gigabit per second, which is as many as 100 times faster than the speeds available from current DSL and cable offerings. Having access on campus to the highest speed connections available anywhere in the world is great for the University of Washington’s students and faculty.   Suppose those connections were available off-campus?

What UW hopes to see is an acceleration of the innovative work that students and faculty do away from the classroom. Work that happens on campus often leads to economic activity and technology start-up companies off campus. With a correspondingly fast broadband connection, more of that work can happen faster. Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland recently started a small gigabit fiber network—the Case Connection Zone—off campus, and has received an overwhelmingly positive response. The experiment was been such a success that Case Western jumped at the chance to start GigU project. As Lev Gonick, Case Western’s Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer puts it, “We want to attract and retain the best and brightest students and scholar/researchers to bring distinction to our universities and to jumpstart never before seen ideas into globally competitive companies that will bring new jobs, wealth and enhance the quality of living in the cities within which we live, work, study, and play.” You can read more about Case’s experience at Gonick’s blog.

Mayor McGinn believes the key to Seattle’s long-term economic health is our continued commitment to building the infrastructure our businesses and residents can use to be world leaders in innovation, in trade, in manufacturing, and in technology. No infrastructure is more central to those goals than the cables we rely on to carry digital freight into, out of, and across Seattle. If Gig.U succeeds, many Seattle residents and businesses would have the opportunity to connect to vastly superior networks than ever before. It would be a big step towards the larger goal of ensuring that every home and business in Seattle has access to truly high speed fiber broadband.

Posted by: Elliott Day