Duke, Penn State Among Group Pushing to Fund Faster Internet

A group of 29 U.S. colleges including Penn State University and Duke University called for private investment to help fund a new generation of high-speed Internet in communities surrounding their schools.

“Gig.U: The University Community Next Generation Project” was started today to encourage the creation of broadband networks that may be “400 to 600 times faster” than existing Internet service, Lev Gonick, chief information officer at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said in an interview.

The group, which plans to solicit telecommunications providers for ideas within 90 days, is trying to create a technology environment that will attract start-up companies and bolster local economies. With faster networks, there is potential for “next generation innovation” that may bring economic growth, said Gig.U Executive Director Blair Levin, who crafted a government initiative to expand U.S. broadband access while he worked at the Federal Communications Commission.

“We want to put bandwidth in the hands of people that will not simply consume it, but also create on top of it,” Levin said in an interview.

Gig.U intends to analyze the network capabilities in a university’s surrounding communities and then advocate for more investment and improvement of those networks, he said.

Schools, Hospitals

Gonick cited the improvements in his university’s Case Connection Zone, a test service that gives residents in the surrounding community access to network speeds more than 250 times faster than those of average broadband subscribers. The service has been used for interactive online tutoring services at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the online monitoring of vital signs of hospital patients.

“I was chief of staff for the FCC during the Clinton years, and what we saw then was the country went through a number of what you may call upgrades with wireless and then Internet,” Levin said. “As it went through each upgrade there was more and more innovation, more commerce and more investment.”

Gig.U was developed at the Aspen Institute, a Washington- based nonprofit that promotes ways to improve public policy.

In addition Duke and Penn State, members of the group include West Virginia University, Howard University, University of Michigan and University of Alaska.

To contact the reporter on this story: Ryan Mac in New York at rmac3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net

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