MU, Gig.U nearing high-speed Internet deal

Gig.U’s Request for Information initiates communication between members and private sector entities.

Despite originally inventing the Internet, the United States has fallen behind other nations in its own technology.

Chip Byers, Missouri Research and Education Network Director of New Initiatives, said between 13 and 23 other nations now have superior high-speed Internet deployment.

Gig.U aims to bring top speed gigabit Internet access network to locations with the most demand, such as research universities and their surrounding communities, according to a news release. Since the July 27 Gig.U national project launch, 37 universities, including MU, have achieved membership.

Recently, Gig.U took the next step in the process, releasing a Request for Information.

“The Gig.U Request for Information begins the dialogue between the public entities (Columbia and MU) and the private network providers and developers,” Byers said. “Gig.U hopes to understand what barriers are keeping private providers from offering affordable ultra-high speed networks in member communities and how each community can foster such investment.”

This communication between Gig.U members and network providers will continue in an organized environment at a meeting Monday in Chicago.

“With 37 members, there is significant commonality, but there are also going to be unique differences so the interaction between the members and potential respondents is crucial,” Gig.U Program Director Elise Kohn said.

Ideally, the interactions initiated by the RFI and the Chicago meeting will result in the establishment of several alliances between the universities and communities and the private network providers and vendors.

“While a vendor or partnership of vendors may come together to serve all members of Gig.U, the RFI looks to see if there are any advantages to bringing together multiple communities with common interests to work with a vendor,” Byers said. “These common interests may be a common vendor, a common application or just proximity.”

All the logistics are to be completed by Nov. 9. By then, members of Gig.U and private network providers are expected to have responses that enable the creation of efficient proposals for partnership plans.

“When we receive the responses on Nov. 9, we will evaluate them and hopefully they will lay the groundwork for formal requests for proposals,” Kohn said. “All members will continue to work together going forward to make sure that all of their goals are realized.”

According to a 2010 Google Fiber Project test, MU and Columbia should have no difficulty reaching agreements with vendors. The test showed Columbia serves as an ideal location for this technology due to the knowledge and collaboration of the community as well as the local appetite for a speedy Internet connection.

In addition, Columbia has served as the birthplace of more than its fair share of technological advancements.

“Columbia has demonstrated that it is fertile ground for innovation driven by broadband — Carfax, DataStorm, Newsy and thousands of inventions and patents have come out of the university,” Byers said. “What new applications, technologies, inventions and jobs will be born in a gigabit Columbia?”

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