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Remember the fiber-optic networks that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) is building in Stanford and the twin Kansas Cities? Big G wants to do more of those. This time, it's bringing some friends to the party.

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!

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of Google but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google. The Fool owns shares of and has created a bull call spread position on Cisco Systems. The Fool owns shares of and has bought calls on Intel. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Corning, Intel, Cisco Systems, and Google; and creating a diagonal call position in Intel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio, follow him on Twitter or Google+ , or peruse our Foolish disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 27, 2011, at 3:04 PM, wjcoffman wrote:

    "and I don't see how it could fail with this all-star cast of backers " - can you say local, state, and federal government?

  • Report this Comment On September 27, 2011, at 3:39 PM, TMFZahrim wrote:

    Point taken, @wicoffman. But then you forget how willing -- nay, desperate -- state and local governments were to land a Google fiber deal in the first place:

    Indeed, that enthusiasm was one of the factors that inspired the creation of Gig.U. Federal might be a different story, but why would regulators block something that has support from public institutions like many of our finest universities, as well as from a broad cross-section of industry interests?

    So I'm not too worried about government interference on any level. Good point, though.


  • Report this Comment On September 27, 2011, at 9:55 PM, wjcoffman wrote:

    I was thinking along the lines of taxing or similar "punitive" measures, which aren't meant to be that way but by the nature of trying to generate much needed revenue it ends up stifling this much needed and beneficial growth.

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