June 19, 2012
By Kaylee Hultgren
Several industry players are involved in the White House’s US Ignite Partnership, a recently announced public-private initiative to provide super-fast broadband networks across communities and universities. Verizon, Comcast, Cisco and the FCC are among 100 partners contributing to the effort’s main goal: to develop approximately 60 next-gen Internet applications over the next 5 years in areas such as education, health and public safety.
A big focus for the industry players is exploring advancements in medical care through broadband capabilities. For instance, the FCC is lending the expertise of one of its rural health care pilot projects, the Missouri Telehealth Network (MTN), which links 5 major medical centers with more than 90 rural health care providers via a high-speed network. It allows patients to access medical specialists through telemedicine, using HD videoconferencing and electronic medical records. MTN will lend expertise to University of Missouri researchers who will use in-home sensor-based networks in a senior living facility to provide remotely-based nursing staff alerts of patients’ changes in medical health.
On Thurs June 12, FCC Chmn Julius Genachowki said of the partnership, “I am pleased that this project will draw on the telehealth expertise of the Missouri Telehealth Network… I expect that American innovators and entrepreneurs will come up with other new ideas to take advantage of the capacity of these networks to develop new, breakthrough applications.”
New ideas are precisely what Verizon’s hoping to get out of the project. “One of the purposes of US Ignite is to try out new high-speed things people haven’t really seen much of before,” said Link Hoewing, vp, Internet and Technology Policy, Verizon. The telco is providing a test bed of its GPON network to about 200 customers in Philadelphia, where the technology is already deployed. The speed will be close to the 300 megabit range, which Verizon rolled out this week through FiOS, Hoewing said.
Verizon chose the Philly market also because it has a number of research institutes and top-flight, high-tech hospitals, such as The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “We thought we could work with them and come up with ideas to use this test bed so some of their doctors, for example, could be connected to their hospital using these FiOS connections,” said Hoewing.
Another business benefit: US Ignite has 100 partners, including software providers like Mozilla, who might want to partner with the participating MVPDs. “All of these folks have connections and might want to come and test stuff in the test bed,” Hoewing said. Moreover, it’s an opportunity for Verizon to showcase its high-speed product.
Other MVPDs, including Comcast, have partnered with US Ignite as a sponsor and will work with universities and vendors to develop next-gen applications in its lab. AT&T will continue to collaborate on research projects involving GENI (the Global Environment for Networking Innovations), which connects more than a dozen universities with ultra-high-speed, programmable networks. And Cisco, also a sponsor, will provide access to its Open Network Environment (Cisco ONE) kit and TelePresence solution, which feature visual apps over ultra-fast broadband networks.