Universities look to commercial sector to boost Internet speeds
In 2010, Google’s Fiber for Communities project aimed to provide ultra-fast Internet connectivity to communities across the nation but only chose one location.
With commercial providers having no plans to provide ultra-fast Internet to communities, a new team of universities have come together to pick up where Google left off.
The idea is not to get a bunch of universities together to provide broadband service, said David Gift, vice provost for libraries, computing and technology at MSU, but to work with the commercial sector to see what conditions would prompt them to want to offer the service.
Providers would look for certain community demographics and the communities surrounding research universities fit those standards, he said. The optimal characteristics include higher incomes, more tech-savvy populations and places that are ideal for startup companies and economic development.
“The basic idea is that the U.S. as a nation is no longer the world leader in providing ultra-fast Internet connectivity to homes and small businesses,” he said.
This fallback leaves people believing the U.S. needs to catch up to the latest technology.
Chemistry junior Ian Durkee said although he is satisfied with his Internet service through Comcast at his apartment, the Internet on campus could use an increase in speed.
He said he still would pay for faster Internet at his apartment and thinks it would make the community more appealing if the ultra-fast service was available.
“Internet is everything right now,” he said. “If it’s faster, why not?”
Gift said today, average household Internet speeds are between 1-5 megabits per second. The ultimate goal is to provide communities with Internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second, which is about 1,000 times faster.
The result is higher bandwidth, producing richer content and higher quality media, Gift said. A person would not experience poor picture quality, pausing or jitters that are common with current speeds. Data transfers would go much faster.
“The speed at which you could download video programs would be seconds instead of minutes or tens of minutes,” he said.
David Bennett, the vice president and chief operating officer of the Prima Civitas Foundation, MSU’s partner in this initiative, said their role as a company is to make connections among resources. They are working to make sure all efforts are aligned and moving in the right direction for the broadband Internet project.
He said there already is a lot of anticipation about the ultra-fast Internet and a number of communities competing for it, and the hype and excitement helps tremendously in moving projects forward.
“This is the next generation of infrastructure projects,” he said. “The connectivity of people is going to be our nation’s great opportunity in the next 50 years. Pieces like this are going to play significant roles beyond our comprehension.”
Bennett said the Internet is a tool that can improve quality of life, economic development and the workforce. Online training programs and health care access are just two emerging services.
“It heightens the possibilities,” he said. “The local entrepreneur who needs and depends on ultra-high speed Internet, it makes their job easier and makes their access to information that much faster.”