Gig City becomes partner in White House initiative to promote, utilize high-speed Internet

Authored By Chloé Morrison

Chattanooga, also known as the Gig City, has been chosen as one of 25 cities nationwide to partner in a White House initiative called US Ignite, which aims to promote United States leadership in developing uses for high-speed broadband Internet.

Sixty universities were also chosen to participate.

“Because we now have a growing number of communities that do have these ultra high-speed networks, US Ignite will help show what’s possible once we have this critical mass of communities that are connected to next-generation, high-speed networks,” Tom Kalil, deputy director for policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, said.

Currently 25 cities, including Chattanooga, are using high-speed Internet to develop new uses for the technology. 

The goal of the initiative is to have 60 new applications for this technology across 200 cities. 

“Chattanooga is already experiencing benefits of next-generation broadband connectivity,” Mayor Ron Littlefield said in a prepared statement. “Between the area’s successes in attracting and retaining businesses to our active entrepreneurial community, the US Ignite partnership will help us take advantage of EPB’s ultra-fast fiber optic network even more.”

Some cities and universities are already discovering ways to apply the technology, and leaders said that they hope many more possible uses for the technology emerge through this initiative. 

“Chattanooga is a town of collaborators. The US Ignite partnership will help us grow our network of people and organizations who want to collaborate to maximize the value of true broadband for communities across the country,” Littlefield said in a prepared statement.

Executive order
The unveiling of US Ignite coincides with an executive order that President Barack Obama will sign Thursday.

The order directs federal agencies to simplify the process for private companies to lay broadband infrastructure on federal property, such as federal lands, buildings, rights of way and federally assisted highways.

For example, the president has directed the Department of Transportation to move toward a “dig once” approach, which means taking the opportunity to install broadband infrastructure when road construction is already scheduled to be done.

Officials said this can reduce the cost of implementing that infrastructure by up to 90 percent.

Chattanooga was chosen to be a part of the partnership because it already has high-speed Internet. 

“We’re excited that Chattanooga is part of the US Ignite partnership,” EPB CEO Harold Depriest said. “EPB’s fiber optic network is already proving to be a springboard for application development and entrepreneurial activity, and the US Ignite partnership will broaden the scope of what can be done when bandwidth is not an issue.”

When US Ignite leaders were asked about the cost of the initiative, they said that the program capitalizes on investments already made by the private sector.

Along with the White House’s announcements, the National Science Foundation also released related news.

NSF, along with the Department of Computer and Information Science and Engineering, has created GENI-Global Environment for Network Innovations-which is a “programmable, virtual lab.”

“Think of it as a test bed for Internet-scale networking experimentation,” Dr. Farnam Jahanian, assistant director for the Computer and Information Science and Engineering Directorate at the National Science Foundation, said.

NSF has already invested $40 million into GENI, and more than 60 universities and 300 researchers nationwide have been involved in its development and implementation.

GENI created the technological foundation for US Ignite, Jahanian said.

“Using GENI, US Ignite will be able to stitch together high-speed broadband resources,” he said.

UTC connection
In addition to calling on the public to submit proposals for possible ways to use these emerging networks, NSF announced Early-concept Grants for Exploratory Research, EAGER, that will fund four new projects, including one led by UTC’s Henry McDonald.

“If something has happened in a city, maybe a chlorine spill or maybe a fire, there will be a need to bring the emergency services up and get them deployed to the region where this is happening, to divert the population away from this region and to bring necessary resources in to it to deal with the situation,” McDonald said in a prepared statement. “Our software system does all that.”

McDonald’s team is working on a disaster response and mitigation system that provides emergency staff with training and planning, as well as real-time guidance on effective strategies to protect first responders and members of the public during a disaster.

Other projects include:

-Mike Zink and his team at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst are working to show the benefits of connecting radars to ultra high-speed networks to improve weather prediction, which could help mitigate the impacts of natural disasters.

-A team led by Marge Skubic at the University of Missouri-Columbia is exploring the potential for early detection of health changes with research on unobtrusive monitoring of individuals with in-home sensors, which could potentially extend independent living for seniors.

-Lev Gonick and his team at Case Western Reserve University are developing high-definition, video conferencing to improve health care delivery, enabling, for instance, seniors to consult clinicians for diagnosis and treatment without leaving their homes.

Obama will sign the executive order tomorrow at 9 a.m. The event will be streamed live at

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Click here to see a video on the initiative.

Updated @ 12:15 p.m. on 06/14/12 to add more information as it became available.