The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) has called upon both government officials and service providers to take Internet connectivity to the next step within the next three years. What exactly does this mean? Well, FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, has issued the “Gigabit City Challenge,” which calls upon all 50 states to create at least one ‘gigabit community’ by 2015. Though it may sound like just another government project, this ‘challenge’ is much more than that.

The challenge is designed to help pave the way for future innovations and better connectivity between citizens, as well as supplement a number of different fields along the way. With that, Genachowski hopes to spark more communities to adopt gigabit internet to help ease and quicken the development of “next generation applications and services that will drive economic growth and global competitiveness.”

Though the US continues to contribute countless innovations, the ‘Gigabit City Challenge” comes as the US continues to lag behind a number of other countries in regards to broadband infrastructure. Officials hope that the initiative’s design will spark competition and participation from each state. The US government understands that the country’s global competiveness and economic growth are hinged on next-generation innovations, applications, and services. With that, officials also understand and stress the need for a critical mass of these gigabit communities to allow for these innovations to be produced. Thusly, Genachowski states that the US would be in a better position to introduce and implement innovation through the successful launch of this challenge.  “American economic history teaches a clear lesson about infrastructure. If we build it, innovation will come.”

As stated above, officials know of the symbiosis between innovation and gigabit communities; therefore, the FCC challenge looks to include each state by sparking competition amongst them. In doing this, the challenge looks to follow Kansas City’s example, where Google Fiber is currently supplying gigabit speeds to residents who choose to use the service. Google created a very distinct buzz throughout Kansas City. In utilizing this, the provider was able to supply gigabit network to users. The “Gigabit City Challenge” looks to mirror this approach, but on a national scale.

In addition to innovation and application, gigabit networks will better serve communities and individuals through every day uses. As IP telephony and video communications become more popular, users should be thinking of ways to introduce high speed connections to the masses. Gigabit networks offer a great deal more speed, which would allow for whatever existing services to work to their full potential(s). According to the Fiber to Home Council, approximately 42 communities in 14 states utilize ultra-high-speed fiber internet providers; therefore, users should find incentive as gigabit network would allow them full optimization of their service.

Gigabit networks have the potential to be used for any number of applications. They can be used to create more immersive and creative software to better implement learning outside of the classroom, as well as for businesses to utilize data. While the list of uses stretches on, gigabit networks offer greater network speeds, which better pave the way for innovation. In terms of speed, 1-gigabit-per-second connectivity speeds are approximately 100 times faster than the current high speed Internet connection (on average). Now, in an age where more and more consumers rely on cloud services for accessing/streaming HD videos, pictures, music, and movies, the need for this speed becomes greater. However, in addressing these needs, one must factor in the high cost and the time it takes to implement.

While this challenge can seem a bit daunting and overwhelming, Genachowski plans to assist in the initiative through better distributing information. To do this, The FCC Chairman looks to create a new clearinghouse of best practices to collect and distribute information dealing with how to increase cost efficiency, as well as how to increase the speed of broadband deployment nationwide, which of course includes the creation of gigabit communities. In addition to this, the Chairman stated that the FCC will hold workshops on gigabit communities. Although cost efficiency and time management are difficult factors to manipulate, Genchowski and company believe that each states’ involvement helps bring this challenge one step closer to reality.

Genachowski and company seem to know the importance of unification, as well as innovation. Additionally, they seem to understand the symbiosis that exists between gigabit communities and development. As the “Gigabit City Challenge” seems a bit harrowing with all its obstacles, the payoff is definitely worth it. For example, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a local utility has deployed a fiber network to 170,000 homes. Genachowski states that this alone has attracted both Volkswagen and Amazon to the city, where they’ve created 3700 new jobs.

Aside from this initiative, the FCC has launched two other programs to help bring about fast fiber networks. The FCC’s Broadband Acceleration Initiative works to streamline legal access to utility poles and right of way for fiber, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program is providing back-end fiber infrastructure to help feed the networks that reach consumers.  

Even while there are a number of initiatives floating around, this ‘challenge’ is more than just another run of the mill. It offers a way for the US to continue and increase innovation on a nationwide scale. Additionally, this initiative benefits citizens on the residential front as well, as gigabit networks would again better optimize private services. Amidst all intents and purposes, however, the FCC's plans, while inclusive, were not very specific. So while the challenge is bold, encompassing, and ambitious, only time will tell if it will be successful.

Sources: TG Daily, ZDNet, HotHardware

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