The aptly named Gig.U project aims to connect research universities across America (yes, including Alaska and Hawaii) with ultra-fast fiber-optic backbone links. This may sound a lot like the Internet2 network, but the old warhorse only connects the member colleges themselves to a high-speed infrastructure; Gig.U wants to sprawl across entire college towns and student-rich communities.
OK, so this project was started by a consortium of colleges and not by Google itself, but the Google Community Fiber Initiative served as a model and inspiration. If universities and corporations can work closely together, the cost of a multibillion-dollar hardware installation might be bearable to everyone included. Plus, college towns happen to have dense populations around dorms and popular off-campus communities that are perfect for dropping in new network installations with a minimum of fuss -- and cost. When you think about it, those are the some of the same factors that make South Korea, Japan, and Singapore the three best-connected nations in the world.
The consortium made darn sure that Google was invited to the first public meeting this week, though. Among the throng of more than 50 public companies with networking expertise, you'd also find backbone runner Level 3 Communications (Nasdaq: LVLT ) , regional service providers Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN ) and Frontier Communications (NYSE: FTR ) , and networking systems builder Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO ) . Other well-known project supporters include fiber-optic cable spinner Corning (NYSE: GLW ) and even microchip giant Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) . We're not just talking about token conference appearances, either; many of these high-tech titans have already voiced their support for the project.
And why not? Assuming that the project takes off -- and I don't see how it could fail with this all-star cast of backers -- the hardware and service providers stand to reap serious revenue from the project. Lower-margin sales at first, to be sure, but it's also a learning experience that could provide stepping stones to a wider ultra-fast Internet down the road.
With or without Gig.U, superfast networking will remain a growing and very investable trend over the next several years. Learn more by reading this free report on broadband investing, including one perfectly positioned player that may never have crossed your mind before. Grab your copy right here -- it's totally free!