BBSJ Holiday Edition: Gig.U Gives a Gift that Gives Back

by Jacqueline Clary on November 27, 2013

Mystery Gift2The countdown is on.  While the ovens heat up and the turkeys start to brown, retailers prepare for one of the biggest promotional events of the year.  Extended Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals rake in the revenue for online and brick-and-mortar stores.  Instead of joining the rest of the salmon swimming upstream, consider gifting your relatives, yourself, and your community with a gift that will earn its return.

The future is upon us, and it’s time to invest in connected communities.

Gig.U, a project created by prominent U.S. research universities to accelerate the deployment of next generation broadband infrastructure to universities and their communities, recently released a progress report.  Examining the lessons learned from pioneering communities that began to implement gigabit networks, the Fall 2013 Update discovered that “local leadership is the single most important ingredient for success.  If there are local leaders who put this at the top of their agenda, it can happen.  If not, it won’t.”

Why should you – as policymakers, community leaders, innovators, and consumers – care about super-high speed broadband networks?  Take a moment to think about all of the things you are able to do online now.  Now, imagine what this ecosystem will look like in a decade or two, as advanced applications are developed to support healthcare, education, and to meet other social and consumer demands.  If your community or your family doesn’t have access to the leading broadband speeds, not only are they missing out on the benefits that these applications will provide, but they will also be blocked from a world of economic opportunity as digital innovators and entrepreneurs.

As the nation adjusts its priorities to prepare the next generation by instilling the knowledge (e.g. emphasizing STEM education) and the skills (including digital literacy and coding) to lead the global economy, we cannot forget to give them the tools to succeed as well.   In short, continued investment in ultra-high speed broadband is crucial to enabling our economic and social success.

In the case of Gig.U, the roots of which can be traced to analysis conducted in the National Broadband Plan, the Fall 2013 Update explained, “In the long-term, the analysis suggested it was important that the United States had the human capital that knows how to design, build, operate and innovate on top [of], not just good, but the best networks in the world.  Only with that kind of human capital would the United States retain the innovation leadership that will find ways to improve business services, health care, education and many other sectors.”

There are a multitude of strategies and resources available to enable farsighted community leaders to begin this process and ensure that their constituents are prepared to succeed in tomorrow’s economy.  And, of course, Gig.U shared the lessons learned from the cities that lead implementation of ultra-high speed communities in its Fall 2013 Update.

The time to start this process is now.  Gathering the resources to support and update the infrastructure is a significant undertaking that requires leadership and planning.  Above all, all communities – regardless of socioeconomic status – need be connected to the networks in order for the United States to regain its innovative edge.

  • Jacqueline ClaryJacqueline Clary is the John W. Jones Fellow at the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council. In this position, she focuses on a variety of policy issues to advance minority participation in the media and telecommunications industries. Ms. Clary earned her B.A. from John Carroll University, her J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law, and is a member of the New York State Bar.

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