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FTTH Council Encourages FCC To Establish 'Gigabit Communities Race to the Top' Program

Following the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) recent decision to review and modernize the E-rate program, which helps schools and libraries pay for Internet access, the Fiber to the Home Council Americas (FTTH Council) has petitioned the FCC to now establish a Gigabit Communities Race to the Top program.

The proposed program is modeled on the Obama Administration's Race to the Top education grants initiative, which was designed to encourage state-level education system reform to improve teaching and learning. The FTTH Council's proposal outlines a competitive program of matching grants of up to $10 million for projects in rural or small urban communities.

Under the proposed system, local governments and community anchor institutions would work together with service providers to implement gigabit networks for the anchor institutions and their surrounding communities. "In turn, these networks will accelerate the creation of a new generation of transformational applications that will promote more rapid investment in and deployment of ultra-high-speed networks across the country," states the petition. "In the end, this virtuous cycle of innovation and investment in both demand and supply will enhance economic development and job creation, furthering the United States’ global leadership and international competitiveness."

While gigabit networks may help economic development, they are more difficult and expensive to build outside of major metropolitan areas. As a result, smaller communities are increasingly being left behind in the digital economy. The Gigabit Communities Race to the Top program aims to level the playing field.

The program would conduct an annual national competition to select up to 15 proposals and provide them with up to $10 million in catalyst funds, to be matched by state and private sources. Projects would be favored if they serve a broad range of anchor community institutions as well as their surrounding neighborhoods. Over the five year life of the program, the program would award up to 75 projects with a total maximum of $750 million. The funding would come from the Connect America Fund (CAF), an FCC program to help implement broadband Internet service in rural communities.

“We are entering into the age of the unlimited bandwidth – finally,” said Heather Gold, president of FTTH Council Americas, in a prepared statement. “We passionately believe these networks will lead to the creation of a new generation of transformational applications that will promote more rapid investment in and deployment of ultra-high speed networks across the country. We know because we’ve already seen it in those select areas with all-fiber networks. Now we need to ensure all communities in the U.S. get it.”

Further information can be found on the FTTH Council's site.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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