Gigabit City working with Communities United for Broadband to elevate the broadband conversation - Technical.ly Philly

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Apr. 27, 2010 2:31 pm

Gigabit City working with Communities United for Broadband to elevate the broadband conversation

Whether Google is behind it or not, Blake Jennelle wants you to know that ultra high-speed gigabit broadband is worth investing in. Though the Philly Startup Leaders founder would like to see those investments made here in Philadelphia, gigabit is bigger than this city alone. “The end goal for Philly is still to get gigabit, […]

Whether Google is behind it or not, Blake Jennelle wants you to know that ultra high-speed gigabit broadband is worth investing in.

Though the Philly Startup Leaders founder would like to see those investments made here in Philadelphia, gigabit is bigger than this city alone.

“The end goal for Philly is still to get gigabit, but Google’s only going to install it in a couple communities,” Jennelle said in a telephone interview earlier this month. “The reality is, if gigabit matters and we want it here, we have to make the case to local companies, city government and the community that it’s worth investing in. It’s going to be hard to do that if the effort is in isolation,” he says.

After Google announced in February that it would help launch 1-gigabit data networks in select communities, the City of Philadelphia and leaders in the region’s technology community have been coordinating an effort to attract Google here. More than 1,000 communities are vying for the opportunity.

Though Philly is certainly not alone in contention, a unique approach to advocating for gigabit broadband is emerging here. Jennelle has been working closely with broadband consultant Craig Settles—a former Philly native whom we’ve often sourced on this site—to educate about and inspire other cities to invest in high-speed gigabit fiber.

Separately, Settles had launched Communities United for Broadband to do just that. With only a Facebook page as its Web presence, the group has attracted more than 800 members, most of which, Settles says, are major stakeholders in municipal broadband initiatives across the country.

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In his role as a consultant, Settles is seen nationally as a leader and pundit of municipal broadband. And like Jennelle, Settles immediately saw an opportunity to connect the communities that aren’t going to attract Google to town.

As we reported earlier this month, Jennelle helped launch and rebrand Philly’s community gigabit efforts as Gigabit City. The effort’s goal is simple—figure out a way to think about gigabit beyond Google.

“For guys like me who aren’t broadband expects, it’s hard to lobby for this. That’s why we hope to bring smart people from around the country to figure out the best way to go home and make the best case,” Jennelle says.

So, a match made sense when the two connected after Jennelle helped announce the gigabit Genius Grant, an effort to award $10,000 to innovative broadband ideas and to stir the broadband pot. As of this morning, Baltimore is set to nab an initial $1,000 grant for its Baltimore Fiber initiative, the first in a series of awards Gigabity City will dole out. More than 130 submissions have already been made, though the full grant deadline is June 30.

Settles hopes that Communities United for Broadband will become a place where parties can get information, links to resources, and find a collaborative environment, with training and an educational structure to learn the best practices of community broadband. But it’s missing something, he says.

“We know we had momentum, and then when I read about Blake’s efforts and saw his website, that addressed right off the bat an issue we were having,” Settles said in a telephone interview. “How do we develop a web presence to do the online communicating?”

Ultimately, Settles says that if the organizations are able to help two or three dozen communities coordinate to get closer to broadband, their missions will be accomplished.

“Folks perceive that the National Broadband plan is going to be a universal thing,” he says. “But broadband is going to be the result of a lot of local efforts putting different variations of broadband in place.”

And a big part of that, he hopes, will deeply involve Philadelphia.

“As we stumble and stagger with what’s going on—what’s up—the Philly kids are kind of putting some structure and creating a radical online presence and trying to move a nation forward.”

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