Will Google Gigabit be Trumped by Gigabit Squared’s $200 Million Bet on Broadband?

Well, things sure got interesting around here at the SHLB Coalition conference. Blair Levin of Gig.U told the lunch crowd yesterday that Gigabit Squared (a consulting, hands-on project management company) has raise $200 million to fund six gigabit-network projects that are originated and supported by colleges and college communities in the Gig.U program.

That’s kinda like a mighty BOOM! dropped on Google’s effort to bring gigabit broadband to Kansas City. “Yeah, we’ll see your one-city funding bet, and raise you five cities. Now whataya got?”

Given that media coverage of Google/Kansas City these days is often laced with threads of doubts regarding how well this project is going to work out, Gigabit Squared might start to cast a shadow over KC. I’m not sure how much KC wants to let this kind of a shadow hang over their project because the local constituency might start to lose faith. Few things short circuit broadband marketing like doubt among potential subscribers.

Chattanooga, on the other hand, with all of their intense self-promotion will likely experience the opposite effect. Gigabit Square’s effort will likely just reinforce the perception by Chattanooga’s citizenry that their city rocks and is truly community broadband’s Golden Child.

I managed to cap my time here on the East Coast with scoring an exclusive interview with Gigabit Squared President, Mark Ansboury, on my Gigabit Nation radio show. This is important, if I can be allowed a moment’s self-pat on the back, because there are a lot of questions (mostly positive) about the program and its potential impact. I’m honored to be first in line to explore these issues.

It is interesting reading some of the tweets about this announcement. Some of my friends from the progressive wing are worried about how much private-sector influence will be exerted on networks funded in this manner. Will they be truly community networks that serve the public interest above corporate interest? A few conspiracy theorists on the right only see the hand of big government and Google unfairly crapping on local service providers.

Listen to the show. Let’s delve into some of these questions and figure out what Gigabit Square is really  all about.

2 Responses

  1. Craig
    As optimistic as Ansboury is – I can’t help but think that this is election-year grandstanding. Extremely light on details – at least Google pinpointed KC as their destination.

    Don’t you find it a bit weird that no specific location has been mentioned?

    And I’m not sure how much you hang out with these “Internet2” types – but they don’t create jobs, or build real-world applications or services. They do “research.” I find that a little at odds with what KC or Chattanooga are trying to do.

    But maybe I’m wrong.

  2. Here on my radio show, Marc goes into more detail about the program – http://bit.ly/KdaSDL. The short and long of it, though, is this. Gig.U collected money from 36 colleges to be testbeds of gig network apps. This list is available at http://www.gig-u.org.

    The colleges need money to bring their ideas to life. Gigabit Squared got a bunch of companies with vested interest in getting more broadband projects started, and solicited money for an investment fund that is fortified by an investment bank. Whichever 6 of the 36 colleges come up with the best plans for implementing a broadband project, divides this initial investment.

    Does this answer a lot of your questions? I’ll be writing more in the upcoming week.

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