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The Gigabit Community: Broadband and the Future of the U.S. Innovation Economy

January 30, 2013

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called for all 50 states to be outfitted with at least one gigabit-speed community by 2015 in an op ed piece run by Forbes earlier this month. Approximately 42 communities in 14 different states already fit the bill and more are joining the effort in what Genachowski termed the “Gigabit City Challenge.”

The chairman's article coincided with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's announcement that his state is investing $1 million in an Illinois Gigabit Community that will bring ultra-high speed internet service to Evanston, IL, home to over 160 tech startups and Northwestern University. Since the announcement, a team of universities and municipalities in North Carolina's Research Triangle also have published a request for proposals for broadband providers interested in partnering with them to deploy an ultra-fast broadband network.

Federal, state and local leaders are coming together in agreement that investment in broadband is economically advantageous as part of both short-term and long-term region-based economic strategies. These benefits are far from abstract. An exceptional broadband infrastructure can attract entrepreneurs, researchers and investors looking for a region with supercomputing capabilities that can support the innovations of the future. Gov. Quinn explicitly stated his intention for the investment to lead to an “economic innovation corridor” that would attract startups and investment to the region. In addition, communities already are seeing measurable results in job numbers and GDP growth from their investments. See a previous digest article detailing efforts in Chattanooga, TN, and Kansas City, MO.

Genachowski also announced the FCC's plan to provide a clearinghouse for best practices on speeding gigabit deployment. But until its release, a number of resources are available for communities to begin a conversation about broadband investment in their region:

  • The Connect America Fund (formerly the Universal Service Fund) is an FCC-led source of public investment in rural broadband that frequently deploys infrastructure in schools and hospitals to develop them as high-speed hubs.
  • The National Broadband Plan is the current administration's roadmap for the future of Internet Service in America. It contains recommendations, action items and links to informative reports and technical papers concerning the economic opportunity in broadband deployment.
  • The Internet Innovation Alliance released its 2013 Broadband Guide for the 113th Congress containing information for policymakers to make informed decisions about internet policy including industry statistics, terminology definitions, and answers to frequently asked questions.
  • The National Broadband Map run by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and the FCC contains critical data and an interactive tool to analyze broadband availability across the United States.
  • The National Conference of State Legislatures' website lists state legislation, statues, laws, task forces, commissions and authorities throughout the U.S. related to broadband.
Illinoisbroadband, federal agency