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MU, Columbia Partner with “Gig.U” to Start Building Ultra High-Speed Internet Network in Region

July 27, 2011

Story Contact(s):
Christian Basi, BasiC@missouri.edu, 573-882-4430

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— Officials from the University of Missouri and the city of Columbia announced a new partnership today that will utilize national resources to eventually build an ultra high-speed internet network available to homes and businesses throughout the city. The partnership, known as “Gig.U: The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project,” pairs research institutions with city leaders with the goal of building a successful network that would support ingenuity, ideas and economic growth.

“We are excited about this opportunity to build the future capacity and infrastructure for a knowledge-based economy in Missouri,” MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said. “While we are only in the initial phases of this partnership, this new agreement could result in research grants and more companies wishing to relocate to our region, stimulating our local and state economies.”

Currently, the cost of deploying ultra high-speed networks is too high for many communities and service providers to support. Through the partnership, university researchers and city leaders will work with internet service providers to identify needs specific to building an ultra high-speed network in the community. Once the needs are identified, the partners will work to build the necessary internet infrastructure.

MU and Columbia join more than 30 research institutions and their local communities in this project. Innovations that are necessary to develop these high-speed networks could utilize the research institutions as testing grounds for the networks. The funding for the first phase, which includes developing a Request for Information that will be sent to internet service providers, is approximately $15,000 and will be split among the city ($6,000), MU($7,500) and MORENet ($1,500). Project leaders hope that the initial investment will lead to grants for research and community infrastructure.

“The University of Missouri is our main economic engine and has a long partnership with local government,” Columbia Mayor Bob McDavid said. “Our citizens say that job creation is one of their top priorities which, in this day and age, means jobs in the tech economy. The Gig.U partnership is perfectly matched with where we want to go.”

Once in place, the network would benefit researchers who collaborate with colleagues throughout the world, students who need access to the latest knowledge on many subjects, businesses that would use the network to enhance their success and bring new discoveries to the marketplace, and individuals who use the network for business and personal needs. Work on the project will be directed by four operating committees composed of representatives of the universities and communities that have joined the Gig.U consortium. Blair Levin, former executive director of the National Broadband Plan, is leading the project.

Institutions that are charter members of Gig.U along with MU include: Duke University, University of Michigan, Penn State University, Case Western Reserve University, University of Chicago, University of Virginia, University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, University of Virginia, Arizona State University, Indiana University, Michigan State University, North Carolina State University, University of Alaska, University of Maryland, University of Florida, University of Hawaii and West Virginia University.

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