Need Blazing Fast Internet? Gig.U Is Now in Session
Scientific American | By Larry Greenemeier
August 8, 2011
In the not-too-distant future broadband speeds will be measured in gigabits per second rather than megabits per second, the former being 1,000 times faster than the latter. Such blazing fast data transmission will vastly improve the quality of streaming high-definition video, playing online video games, participating in video conferences and using voice over IP, all of which struggle with latency at today’s average data transfer rates, which range from less than one megabit per second (Mbps) to 10 Mbps(pdf). The sticking point over gigabit-per-second broadband: who will pay for it?
Telecommunications companies, still stinging from the financial beating they took a decade ago after hastily building up capacity for Internet companies that soon went out of business, have been leery ever since of investing in infrastructure unless they are certain there is a demand for it. Most customers, many of them still exploring the wonders of YouTube and for the most part content to simply use e-mail and social networks, are not demanding, nor are they willing to pay a premium for, service that moves information at 1 billion bits per second.
The exception lies at the seat of learning—universities and research institutes that can find a way to use any extra bit of speed that their ISPs can provide. With the federal government in no position at the moment to invest heavily in the National Broadband Plan introduced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last year, more than 30 universities and counting have taken the matter into their own hands, forming the University Community Next Generation Innovation Project, more commonly referred to as Gig.U. Members include schools across the country—from the University of Alaska down to the University of Florida at Gainesville.
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