President Obama will sign an executive order Thursday to create a national broadband network "operating at speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second," as the news release says, under a newly created non-profit partnership called US Ignite.
The network would serve as a test bed for next-generation applications in areas such as education, health care and clean energy -- you know, along the lines of what Google's got in mind for the networks it's building in Missouri and Kansas.
About 100 partners are helping US Insight, with some providing in-kind backing, including Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR), NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701) and HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ).
Several service providers will contribute pilot programs that test out superfast broadband. Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), for example, will test speeds up to 300Mbit/s in homes, businesses and institutions in Philadelphia, and support apps such as over-the-top video on TVs and portable devices. Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) said it'll work with universities to test new apps in its lab. The city of Chattanooga, Tenn., has agreed to provide access to its existing 1Gbit/s network.
US Ignite is starting off with agreements with 25 cities across the country that will form the initial branches of the national network. This fact sheet (PDF) offers more detail on the initial projects and partners involved.
Why this matters
The government spin is that the effort will help spark the crummy economy and create a platform to test the limits of, and urge the adoption of, broadband. As everyone knows, the United States continues to be a broadband laggard when compared to the likes of Japan and South Korea. The new project also shares some of the broader goals outlined by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's National Broadband Plan.
No guarantees that it'll bring 1Gbit/s to your doorstep any time soon, though!
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable