Regulatory guru Blair Levin has done many things in his long career, from serving as chief of staff to a FCC chairman to working for a communications think tank to authoring the National Broadband Plan, but his new venture – Gig.U – may be his best ever.

Launched just two days ago, the University Community Next Generation Innovation Project, or Gig.U, is a broad-based group of almost 30 research universities from across the United States. According to its website, the organization says, “Drawing on America’s rich history of community-led innovation in research and entrepreneurship, Gig.U seeks to accelerate the deployment of ultra high-speed networks to leading U.S. universities and their surrounding communities. Improvements to these networks drive economic growth and stimulate a new generation of innovations addressing critical needs, such as health care and education.”

Notes Executive Director Levin in his first blog: “Our mission is simple: accelerate the deployment of world-leading, next-generation networks in the United States in a way that provides an opportunity to lead in the next generation of ultra high speed network services and applications. Our strategy is simple. Utilize the best targets for such deployment and development—university communities—as test beds.”

He continues, “Our tactical plan is simple: Aggregate sufficient demand and then, through an intelligent conversation with current and potential suppliers as well as a market-based mechanism, create incentives for private capital to deploy next-generation networks in a critical mass of university communities. We are combining lessons learned from economic development zones, spectrum auctions and other successful initiatives to achieve our mission.”

When it gains momentum, Gig.U says its potential benefits include:

>> Economic growth, investment and job creation;
>> An improved platform for research;
>> An improved platform for small business development;
>> New ways to distribute the benefits of the information revolution to all parts of the country; and
>> New approaches to health care, education, job training and other critical social needs.

To date, the following colleges and universities are Gig.U participants: Arizona State University, Case Western Reserve University, Colorado State University, Duke University, George Mason University, Howard University, Indiana University, Michigan State University, North Carolina State University, Penn State, University of Alaska, University of Chicago, University of Florida, University of Hawaii, University of Illinois,  University of Kentucky, University of Louisville, University of Maryland, University of Michigan, University of Missouri, University of Montana, University of New Mexico, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of South Florida, University of Virginia, University of Washington, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest University and West Virginia University.

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