Gig.U teams up with UMaine to bring high-speed Internet to local residents

By Brittany Toth | The Maine Campus | April 9, 2012


The University of Maine joined the Gig.U project in September 2011, becoming one of 37 universities trying to provide ultra high-speed network services to surrounding communities around the country.

Gig.U launched The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project in July 2011 with the membership of 37 universities. UMaine is the only university in Maine and one of the few in New England to join the program.

“These research universities are looking to bring gigabit-speed Internet to communities,” said John Gregory, executive director of information technologies at UMaine. “We have — at [the] 37 universities — gigabit-speed Internet on campus for researchers and so forth, but we don’t have it in our communities.”

Gig.U’s mission according to their website is to “accelerate the deployment of world-leading, next generation networks in the United States in a way that provides an opportunity to lead in the next generation of ultra high-speed network services and applications.”

Gregory said UMaine’s involvement is aimed at trying to spread the high-speed network service to the Old Town and Orono areas.

“That’s the goal and we’ve been plugging away at it,” Gregory said. “Back in the fall, there was a request for information that was posted and a number of Internet providers around the country responded to that, some here in Maine as well. So we’ve been working with them now, trying to see if we can establish some kind of a program and get something off the ground.”

According to Gig.U’s report about feedback, the RFI was “designed to inspire creativity” in hopes that hosts would think of new ways to provide ultra high-speed networks.

Gig.U is trying to work with Internet providers, equipment manufacturers, companies and individuals who responded to their RFI in order to establish a program to get the high-speed network service up and running. Gregory thinks the service could have a huge impact on the communities where it is provided.

“It’s a thousand times faster than the Internet you have today,” he said. “Certainly I’d like that for my home, but I’d also think it’s very important for looking at the economic development in our communities for small businesses.”

Gig.U believes such a network could be used to improve health care, education, business and other fields. Things like financial services, retail marketing and air quality monitors could benefit from the high-speed networks that could be provided in the future, allowing them to do and share work faster and more efficiently.

Gig.U’s plan originated from the National Broadband Plan (NBP) which suggested the federal government provide ultra high-speed broadband to certain military groups to work towards developing a faster internet.

The NBP was submitted to congress where Gig.U member’s responded to a Request of Information that was sent out by Google. Google was trying to select which city they would bring gigabit connectivity to.

All 37 universities who participate in the project will contribute to the funding. Gig.U will also be looking for funding from nonprofits and private enterprises that show interest. The project will be coordinated at Aspen Institute, an international non-profit organization. The gigabit-speed Internet would be offered through internet services providers like Time Warner.

Gregory explained that the university would face some obstacles in order to provide gigabit-speed Internet.

“The biggest one being [that], in some buildings and a number of residence halls, we have fairly old wiring that isn’t capable of handling gigabit Internet,” he said.

Only 70 of the more than 200 buildings on campus them have had wiring upgrades, according to Gregory, leaving a lot of work left to be done.

“The goal of Gig.U is that it would cost about the same as what you are paying for commodity Internet now, just a thousand times faster,” he said.


To read the full article from the Maine Campus, click here.


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