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FAQ's from Vendors

We have outlined some common questions we have received from vendors and interested third parties. The points they raise range from technical, to operational, to financial. We anticipate releasing additional information in the upcoming days to help vendors understand more about our member communities and their visions for how to use the network.

 

TECHNICAL

1. What are the minimum acceptable bandwidth speeds for terrestrial and/or wireless service? — is Gig.U envisioning symmetrical 1Gbps bandwidth or asymmetrical?

We consider 1 Gbps downstream as a baseline for an ultra-high speed wireline network.  High bandwidth in the upstream direction is also considered essential. Symmetrical offerings are not required, however widely asymmetrical bandwidth offerings could undermine the Gig.U goals of technological, commercial and social innovation that we hope will evolve from this effort.  Disparately asymmetrical bandwidth offerings (multiple HD video downstream and near keystroke upstream speeds, to use an extreme example) would preclude a whole host of applications that can readily be envisioned as a result of this initiative.  For example, the use of multimedia collaboration tools by faculty and/or students, or data analytics as a small business based computational service may be infeasible with limited upstream bandwidth.

Members are also interested in new opportunities for ultra-high speed wireless innovation, and consider 100MB speeds as the baseline for ultra-high speed wireless networks.

2. Is there any expectation on how bandwidth is delivered to the individual user (HFC or fiber)/is there a preference for Fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) versus WiMax?

Gig.U members are seeking creative strategies to increase their communities’ access to ultra-high speed networks and services so as to enable a new generation of innovations over the broadband platform.  Many members have a preference for terrestrial deployments, where possible, to end-users seeking 1 Gbps fixed services.  However, members are very interested in better understanding the trade-offs between technologies and we encourage responses that rely in part or in total on technologies other than FTTH.

3. If we are unable to provide 1 Gbps on day one, what is the expectation on minimum speeds and when would 1 Gbps be expected? What broadband speeds for residential/hub/enterprise?

Gig.U member communities are looking to serve as test-beds for world-leading, next generation networks and services, which we define in the RFI as 1 Gbps for wireline and 100 Mbs for wireless networks.  Our intent is to make these speeds available to as many residential and business end-users as possible in as short a time period as possible.  If respondents cannot provide this level of connectivity on day one, they should explain how their proposed strategies to serve the community needs are consistent with the members’ aspirations to gain accelerated access to next generation networks to promote their communities as hubs of innovation.  In addition to the speeds provided by the networks, members may also consider the scale of any new deployments or network upgrades as well as the cost or other attributes associated with the services.

4. Does Gig.U’s definition of ultra highspeed broadband refer specifically to high speed internet access or are private network connections anticipated as well?

The primary interest of the members is in networks that provide a platform for innovation.  This could include both types of services, but members could have a preference for either type of service, depending upon the costs, technical details and their specific needs. There are members of the communities who would want full Internet access, and there are also members of the communities who would want private network connections. In this RFI, members are open to discussions about both types of service.

5. Is the community expecting to be on one L2 VLAN or is this just general IP traffic?

A single VLAN for the entire community is very unlikely to meet their needs, though a single VLAN per community member may be sufficient. Please refer to the answer to the previous question for context. While the bulk of community traffic is likely to be to/from the commodity Internet, private networks are best suited for individual VLANs. Indeed, individual entities, including institutions of higher education and some private-sector businesses, would like multiple VLANs to support specific populations of constituents and applications. Community participants would like the delivery of VLANs to be included and itemized as separate costs.

OPERATIONS & SERVICES

6. Please provide use-cases of specific interest for each University. Examples would include Telehealth, IPTV, Gaming, etc.  What are the primary applications that would run on the network?  Do the applications have a priority order?

The member communities are already home to a large number of professional and recreational developers hungry for cutting-edge networks and technology that incorporates and enables functionality such as 3D modeling, high-definition simulations, telepresence, HD video, and rapid transfer of massive data sets.  These applications help students, faculty and businesses analyze and share information in new ways that can lead to meaningful breakthroughs, new ways of operating and greater efficiency across a number of disciplines including:

  • Healthcare
    • Telehealth
    • Research and bioinformatics
    • Engineering
    • Advanced manufacturing
    • Education
    • Public safety
    • Clean energy/smart grid
    • Retail
    • Business
    • Media and entertainment
    • Job training
    • Support for general data-intensive research and development

Our members expect that as the volume of data consumed by multiple devices and applications that can be used simultaneously increases, and as we store more information remotely and depend on more cloud-based services, the increased bandwidth and speed available from 1 Gbps networks and services will take on new importance for community members and stimulate greater demand for such network and services.

While all members have a particular interest in applications that serve both improving the revenue model and the broader public purposes of their mission, they have not provided an ordered list of priorities; rather they wish the network to be used for a wide variety of applications.  However, some members used the communities overviews included in the appendix to the RFI to highlight specific applications and uses of particular interest to their communities.

Please also note that members are open to working in collaboration with private sector partners to develop deployment and service strategies that focus on specific applications that may be of particular interest to partners.  For example, members may work in collaboration with a service provider and a health care provider who agree to fund some portion of the network or commit to a contract for a set amount of services to make sure that specific end-users or areas of the community receive 1 Gbps service because doing so would help the health care provider evaluate certain new technologies.

Private sector companies, in addition to public sector entities, are welcome to identify additional use cases particular to their environments, as discussions and dialogue concerning deployment progress.

7. Are video and voice products desired? If so, for all or a portion of the geography?  Are Business Services Products desired (e.g., 10 Gbps Ethernet, multi-line voice services, commercial broadband, etc.)?  Are any other products specifically requested – eg, Home Security, etc.?)

The RFI seeks to gather conceptual frameworks and indications of interest from vendors interested in working with Gig.U members to develop strategies to deploy self-sustaining, next generation broadband networks that will provide affordable, high-speed services to our communities.  All else being equal, members will favor a strategy that offers consumers and businesses more services; however members are not seeking to procure a specific suite of products at this time.  Rather, they are seeking strategies to collaborate with vendors in mutually beneficial ways that will promote their communities as hubs of innovation with cutting edge networks and services available to local residents and businesses.  In particular, the members believe they can provide a low cost test-bed for service providers to test various new services that can, after the testing period, be rolled out to the broader public.

8. Please provide details on wireless services desired for the campus and off-campus geography – eg WiFi, 3G/4G, etc.  Is the University looking for a “hotspot” network to provide wireless service in the geography or just a CPE-based wireless device?

Ubiquitous and robust wireless access is important to all member communities, and members may be willing to consider a variety of technical solutions to help achieve that goal.  To realize members’ goals of serving as test-beds for new technologies and applications, proposals built solely around wireless solutions will ideally focus on ultra-high speed offerings capable of achieving speeds significantly greater than those currently being deployed to the mass market.  As explained in the RFI, we consider networks capable of offering users services at 100 Mbps to be the minimum threshold for a next-generation wireless network.  However, in addition to the speeds provided by the networks, members may also consider the scale of any new deployments or network upgrades, the range of features or services provided to end-users as well as the cost or other attributes associated with the services.

9. Who would be responsible for support for the end-users on the network?

Gig.U members are willing to consider a variety of business arrangements with respect to providing support for end-users on the network. Support for end-users would likely involve some combination of vendor and subscriber activities, different for different layers of the OSI model, and different depending upon the nature of the services (IP traffic, VLANS, peering, etc.)  While university members traditionally assume that to the extent a commercial provider or public/private partnership deploys services in the community, that provider or partnership would provide support, this is a point that members consider worthy of additional exploration and negotiations as the delivered services specific to each community begins to gel in conversations with each community.

COMMUNITY INFORMATION, DEMAND FORECASTS AND APPLICATIONS

A number of vendors submitted fairly detailed questions about the target geography or products of interest to the community members.  Some of those questions are addressed below.  Site by site subscriber details, both geographic and analytical, have not been compiled for this RFI.  Members recognize such details will likely be components of future discussions with potential vendors, and the questions submitted helped members gauge what likely will be needed in the future for an RFP.   In the interim, members hope that vendors will use their RFI responses to provide additional insight about the types of information and partnerships that will be of greatest interest to them.

10. Who is the community? Do the communities have a priority order?  (i.e. Healthcare, MDU’s, etc.)

Please refer to the community descriptions included in the community overviews for more information about how each individual member defines its “community” for the purpose of this project.   As mentioned in the RFI, for purposes of this project, Gig.U members may define their “communities” in a manner that does not align perfectly with the geographic boundaries of political subdivisions.  For example, the following member universities and their community partners highlighted target geographies that do not align perfectly with municipal boundaries: University of Chicago, University of Washington, Georgia Institute of Technology, Case Western Reserve University, Howard University, and George Mason University.

Many members are interested in eventually seeing their whole municipality receive Gig+ bandwidth, but they are willing to adjust downward to initiate the roll-out process even if they did not do so when preparing their community overview.  Other members have indicated an interest in prioritizing certain geographies or types of end-users, but all members are generally willing to work with potential respondents and other business partners to prioritize communities in a manner that aligns with respondents’ business and/or R&D objectives. 

11. What criteria will Gig.U communities use to identify ultra high speed broadband sites?

All Gig.U members would like the service to be available as widely as possible in their community (as defined in the RFI).  We understand, however, that there are trade-offs between coverage and cost (and therefore price).  Through this RFI process, Gig.U members hope to have a creative conversation with all interested parties as to how to optimize coverage for the communities in a way that enables at least one provider to offer the next generation service at a price likely to attract a critical mass of users.  We are willing to explore with potential vendors ways of determining demand so as to both most effectively target the initial roll-out as well as to stimulate demand for ongoing network deployments or upgrades.

We note that in the agreement between Google and Kansas City, the parties agree that Google will “build the fiber network on a demand-driven basis, allowing the citizens of City to determine where and when the Project will be deployed.”  Gig.U members would be willing to explore similar agreements related to determining the extent of coverage in a community.  Members are seeking to cooperate in the design, planning, construction and operation of the Project, but they expect that a last mile provider would decide where to build the initial locations of the Project after consulting with Community and University leadership.

12. Are there any targeted buildings nearby each of the communities that the GigU members require that service providers build to (i.e. Library, performing center, etc.)?  Is Gig.U envisioning this service will be made available to a Gig. U participant’s community anchor institutions?  Its local businesses?  To all its residences?  It was clear that Gig U is interested in bi-directional Gig-E connectivity… is there any prioritization as to who in the community needs Gig-E bandwidth first, versus other community members who can settle for less bandwidth up front?

As noted in response to question 11, members hope to engage in a creative conversation with private sector entities to optimize coverage in their individual communities.  The members believe there are a number of attractive targets for deployment in their communities that serve both economic goals of the service provider and the innovation goals of this Project, including: 1) high volume student housing proximate to institutions typifies many of our communities, 2) off-campus institutional sites, 3) private sector businesses that rely heavily on large data exchanges, and 4) public sector anchor institutions.

13. Please provide the complete mailing/physical addresses of the data center(s) and telecom building(s) that the GigU Members would like to have the proposed network interconnect/built to.

Please refer to the response to questions 11 and 12.  Gig.U members are willing to work with private sector partners to optimize coverage.

 

14. Will the GigU members/communities actively seek out the “demand” within its respective community? The lack of any demand side statistics will hamper capital investment.

We believe, given the pre-existing use by faculty, staff, students and others in our communities, that we have the highest demand for bandwidth of any set of communities in the United States. Therefore, we are the most logical place to test the demand for next generation speeds, as well as being the most likely communities to develop the innovations that will drive increased demand in other communities.  Gig.U members are willing to explore with potential providers techniques that could help determine where in the community that demand is likely to be highest and develop a deployment schedule that reflects that expressed demand. 

15. What would each community envision as the aggregate demand forecast for services from the University?  From the students in dormitories?  From the business community?  From the residences in the community/off campus housing?  Any demand research or forecast from any institution which could be used as a base case would be greatly appreciated.

Gig.U members understand the trade-offs between coverage and cost.  Gig.U members are willing to explore a wide variety of techniques with potential providers to help determine where in the community that demand is likely to be highest and various factors that can help affect demand to develop a deployment schedule that reflects that expressed demand.

16. Is there any available community research (residential and business profiles) that the membership can share to better assist respondents in measuring the potential opportunity?

Please refer to the community profiles provided in the appendix of the RFI.

17. Please describe any successful community (national, state, or local) initiatives Gig. U may have based its research on. Are there any comparable models (US or Internationals) we could draw knowledge from in preparing our strategy?

US Models: Gig.U was perhaps most influenced by Google’s efforts in Kansas City and Stanford and the Case Connection Zone, but other initiatives that may be informative as respondents consider strategies include the healthcare IT-related collaboration between Duke and Verizon and the efforts of Sonic.net.

The three major distinctions between the Google Community Fiber Initiative and the Gig.U idea are: 1) we seek to have many more communities involved as we believe a critical mass of diverse communities is necessary to develop the innovations that are at the heart of the mission of this project; 2) we seek a diversity of potential providers, rather than relying on one provider and therefore only one model; and 3) we are targeting university communities, as we believe they are the best targets for such deployments, both from economic interests of the entities involved and the positive externalities for the broadband ecosystem and the country that may result from the effort.  The Google agreements with Kansas City demonstrate that communities interested in becoming hubs of technological innovation are willing to work with the private sector to find mutually beneficial arrangements that will result in the deployment of next generation networks.

The Case Connection Zone helps show that several community partners, including the university, have an interest in creating a relatively contained test bed to explore innovations made possible by the deployment of next generation networks and the real-world impact those innovations can have in terms of inspiring new businesses and improving the quality of life for residents in health, energy, safety and education.

Google’s efforts in Stanford and Verizon’s collaboration with Duke help validate the premise that there is value to the private sector to collaborating with university communities for innovations in technology.  While the Google and Verizon models are very different they are just two of the many examples that support the notion that university communities can help private sector entities further their own innovation agendas.

Finally, the efforts of Sonic.net to base deployment/upgrade decisions on a relatively simple method of collecting information about consumer demand may be of interest.

International efforts: There are a number of other next generation initiatives around the world, including in Japan, Hong Kong, Spain, Sweden and Portugal, with additional efforts in Korea and the Netherlands expected soon.  While Gig.U members are open to lessons learned from these projects and the models that made them possible, our initial view is that the market structure in the United States, as well as other factors, are such that we will have to be, and indeed we should be, innovative in creating the model for rolling out next generation networks.  In short, Gig.U is comfortable with the idea that we are not imitating a model; rather, in the best American tradition, we are creating one.

Further, we note that we have been contacted by a number of universities and others in other countries seeking assistance in creating similar efforts in their countries but we have chosen to focus on the opportunity in the United States.   We note this as we believe that while the models from other countries are unlikely to work in the United States, the Gig.U model of Service Provider/Community collaboration in university communities is likely to work in a number of other countries.  We welcome the efforts in other countries, but it is our hope that we can develop a broader footprint of next generation communities more rapidly than in other countries.

18. In the community of interest, who is the incumbent network operator, and what services are required that they are not already providing?

Gig.U members are interested in working with all interested private sector entities, including our incumbent providers, to create test-beds for affordable, ultra-high speed broadband networks and services.  Incumbent providers serving our member communities do not currently offer residential end-users broadband service at or even close to the thresholds identified in the RFI.  Information regarding future upgrades that may provide service approaching the Gig.U threshold is not available. We hope to use this process to develop strategies that will change the analysis for incumbent providers and/or other private sector entities.  We believe that targeted investments akin to other R&D investments can produce long-term profits for the private sector by helping them discover or develop new products, extend or expand demand for existing services and provide a competitive advantage vis-à-vis other providers.

The identities of incumbent network operators are listed in the appendix to the RFI.

VENDOR INCENTIVES

19. Will any campus participating in Gig. U provide cost saving options in deploying ultra high-speed networks —  e.g. access to rights of way, conduit, entrance facilities, etc. If so, which campus(es)?

Several members including, but not necessarily limited to: Colorado State/Ft. Collins, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and University of Washington/Seattle mentioned specific incentives in their community overviews, but all members are willing to explore cost saving options within their control and are willing to work with other members of their communities to see if there are additional cost savings options beyond the control of the members.  Section V.D. of the RFI is intended to elicit vendor feedback regarding how members can do this most effectively.

20. Will any campus participating in Gig. U act as an anchor institution for new ultra high-speed services?   If so, which campus(es)?  Will any campus participating in Gig. U enter into an exclusive agreement with the successful vendor to the campus and the surrounding community? If so, which campus(es)?

To the extent not barred by existing law or contract, universities participating in Gig.U are interested in working with their local community partners and exploring with potential vendors any arrangement that could be leveraged to accelerate the deployment of next generation broadband networks and services.

We understand that before responding to a future RFP, vendors may desire a certain degree of certainty with respect to revenue streams or cost reductions, and we hope that the responses to the RFI will include detailed information about the level of commitment or cost reduction necessary to incent a certain level of deployment or investment in the community.

 

21. Do you envision that the Gig.U initiative would include a University/ Company partnership to co-develop applications which require high network speeds?

Gig.U members are willing to consider a variety of business arrangements or partnerships to incent the private sector to invest in next generation networks and services and foster innovation throughout our communities.  For example, we note the recent partnership between Duke and Verizon in the health care area as an example of the kind of partnership the members are interested in discussing.

22. Which of the Gig.U members would be willing to provide documented support allowing the use of the wastewater system for the purposes of deploying fiber-optic cable?

In general, members are willing to consider allowing use of the wastewater system for the purpose of deploying fiber optic cable, but they are not in a position to commit to such uses without additional information.

CONTRACTING

23. What is Gig.U’s role in campus and service provider discussions?  Will Gig. U act as a party in negotiations?

Gig.U is a platform to facilitate conversations between the communities best suited to serve as test-beds for next generation networks and services and potential providers of such networks and services.  Gig.U is advising its members in these conversations but it does not have the authority to commit any of its members to any proposal or conditions.

24. Who will be the contracting entity for services (Member University, City, New Entity, GigU)?  Contracting – How does Gig. U anticipate successful vendors contracting with members?

Gig.U members hope to stimulate private sector investment in world leading networks in their communities.  Member universities and communities are willing to work with the private sector to identify creative and effective strategies to lower the cost and/or increase the expected revenue associated with these networks.

When the RFI process is completed, Gig. U will provide all its members with potential frameworks for contracting with vendors on an individual and potentially, regional, sectoral, or national basis.  While such contracting will be subject to all applicable state and local laws, we welcome ideas from potential vendors as how to structure such contracting to facilitate the mission of Gig.U.

Depending upon the strategy employed, the parties to a contract could include member universities, cities, new entities, local utilities and/or other stakeholders with assets and/or resources to contribute to the efforts.

25. Successful vendors may have existing contractual relationships with Gig. U members and affiliated business communities. Please describe how these existing contracts could be leveraged to accelerate deployment of next generation broadband networks.

To the extent not barred by existing law or contract, universities and communities participating in Gig.U are interested in exploring with potential vendors any arrangement that could be leveraged to accelerate the deployment of next generation broadband networks and services.  Such arrangements may include leveraging existing contractual relationships where doing so is consistent with local procurement policies.

26. The Universal Service Fund programs, E-rate and Rural Healthcare, have rules regarding competitive bidding as well as service provider interactions with applicants prior to issuance of an RFP.   Has Gig. U analyzed these rules and provided campuses guidance so as not to jeopardize the school, library or hospital’s ability to receive program benefits?

The Gig.U process is open and all responses will be reviewed equally.  This Request for Information is not intended as a precursor to a Universal Service Fund Program Request for Proposals.  Each Project Member and responding vendor is responsible for their entity’s compliance with any local, state or federal procurement rules including the competitive bidding rules associated with the Universal Service Fund programs.

RELATIONSHIP WITH R&E NETWORKS

27. What will the role of the NREN’s (Internet2 and NLR) have in the GigU initiative?  Many of the GigU Members are Authorized Quilt Buyers, what (if any), will The Quilt’s role be in the GigU initiative?  North Carolina – https://www.mcnc.org/news/ncren-internet2-events-draw-state-national-IT-leaders-to-triangle – Please describe any associations with MCNC, NCREN initiatives supporting Internet2 and broadband expansion already underway in North Carolina

Gig.U members are in discussions with a number of the research and education networks about ways the R&E networks can assist in the mission of accelerating the deployment of next generation networks and services.  We also encourage others to discuss partnerships with the research and education networks that could result in accelerating deployment of next generation networks and services.  It is not the intent of Gig.U to in anyway duplicate the services provided by the R &E networks.

FINANCING

28. The RFI states there is low probability of receiving federal funds for this project. Please describe any other current funding resources that are committed.

There are no other funding resources committed to the Gig.U effort at this time.  As with the agreement between Google and the cities where it will be building out its gigabit network, many of the Gig.U member communities are seeking to incent private sector investment in the construction and operation of the network by lowering the costs of capital expenditures, operating expenditures, and risk, and increasing potential revenue through the actions and/or commitments of various community entities, including the municipality, the university, utilities, anchor institutions, and others.

We note that Gig.U members may be open to a variety of arrangements with respect to the allocation of financial risk among the parties.  Respondents have an opportunity to discuss the potential allocation of financial risk among the parties in response to the information request in Section V.C.7 of the RFI.

OTHER

 

29. Please name any private/public companies who have expressed an interest in the Gig. U initiatives.

Over 100 companies have requested information about the RFI or engaged in conversations with Gig.U staff or Members regarding the project, and our staff and members continue to receive inquiries and engage in conversations with new vendors on an on-going basis.  The attached list includes those companies that attended the Gig.U public workshop in Chicago on September 26th.

 

 

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