Gigabit Broadband Comes to Innovation District

Residents and businesses in the Innovation District will soon have access to a blisteringly fast one-gigabit-per-second broadband connection.

The program springs from a partnership between the University of Florida and GRU’s GRUCom telecommunications network. The service was expected to be available to the Innovation Square area by the end of June, according to a press release. The network could eventually expand throughout Gainesville as demand rises.

GRUCom Director Ted Kellermann says that Innovation Square was picked for the rollout because of its concentration of technology-based start-ups. He says that these are the companies that need the high peer-to-peer network speeds being offered because they push the boundaries of our technology already and need to continue with network speeds that may one day become commonplace.

The connections will run at a speed up to 100 times faster than standard cable or DSL connections. Kellermann warns that people shouldn’t think of the network in terms of “Internet speed,” but rather as transferring data between two parties on the same network. These high-speed connections can present a boost in productivity for technology firms that need to transfer large amounts of data between workers.

GRU already has an existing infrastructure of fiber-optic cables—through which the network will operate—in the area, which will cut production costs dramatically. These cables operate by sending data as light waves from one machine to another.

“They’re about as future-proof a transmission medium as you can get,” Kellermann says. “Now the electronics just need to get better.”

As the electronics improve and manufacturing costs drop, so do prices. Kellermann says that the price of current machines now makes it economically feasible for businesses to purchase them.

Further expansion of the Innovation District will tap into existing fiber-optic cables and see new ones built as demand spreads for the service, he says.
UF President Bernie Machen said in the release that this is what was needed to attract entrepreneurs and technology leaders. “Having a high-bandwidth community near our campus creates an environment that will better serve the mission of educating our students and creating a hub of high-tech economic growth for Florida.”

But Mayor Craig Lowe is excited for what is also means for the community. “Sharing this capability beyond our campuses and to our communities will help us retain startup, high-tech businesses as they prosper and grow in the city of Gainesville,” he said.

The ultrahigh-speed broadband initiative is part of the nationwide University Community Next Generation Innovation Project, also known as Gig.U. The program is designed to speed up the adoption of these networks by universities and their surrounding communities. UF News Bureau Director Steve Orlando says that the university was the catalyst to get the project moving in Gainesville.

“We took on the role of making it happen,” Orlando says. “That kind of service will attract the kinds of businesses we want in the Innovation District. We’re looking for high-tech, entrepreneurial, inventive businesses.”

Orlando says that while UF isn’t the first school in the nation to adopt the program, it is the first in Florida. (The University of South Florida is a part of Gig.U as well, but it’s not adopting the broadband changes yet.)

The university splits membership dues with GRU. The ultrahigh-speed network will be available to Innovation District residents at an introductory rate of $99 per month (plus tax). Business rates will be determined by individual circumstance and quoted on an individual basis.

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