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Burlington, Vt., Partners With U.S. Ignite to Be Next Gig City

The city plans to grow its workforce and improve gigabit connectivity for institutions like public schools and universities.

Gigabit cities are sprouting up across the nation, and Burlington, Vt., is the next to join the list. The coastal city that lies 45 miles south of the U.S.-Canadian border launched a partnership with nonprofit U.S. Ignite earlier this month called BTV Ignite to develop gigabit connectivity infrastructure and next-generation applications within the city.

According to U.S. Ignite, Burlington is the 26th city to join the nonprofit’s network of high-tech cities. The idea behind the partnerships is to help cities strengthen technology efforts related to education, workforce, energy, health care, public safety, transportation and advanced manufacturing. For Burlington, that could also mean offering a local cloud computing solution over Burlington’s fiber-optic network.

Over the next five years, U.S. Ignite plans to create a network of 60 next-generation applications and 200 “community test beds” where the apps can be researched and developed and later deployed. According to U.S. Ignite, the nonprofit works with a series of corporate sponsors to support the city partnerships.

Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger said he hopes the partnership will help grow the city’s workforce, increase the number of startups located in the city, and create better access to gigabit connectivity for institutions and individuals. Already, the mayor has established an advisory committee to both energize the community and try to create tech jobs.

“We believe we’re well on our way to being the first city in the country that provides gigabit access to every student from kindergarten through college and even graduate school here in Burlington,” Weinberger said. 

To participate as a partner, the city of Burlington will pay an annual fee of $840.

According to U.S. Ignite Executive Director Bill Wallace, Burlington has already taken great strides to offer gigabit access in the education space. However, efforts will need to continue.

He said the city is looking to secure a GENI (Global Environment for Network Innovations) rack through a project sponsored by the National Science Foundation that provides local storage and computing capabilities for universities. The plan would be to place the GENI rack within the University of Vermont, located in Burlington (UVM). If UVM received the GENI rack, the university would be given access to researchers at nearly 45 other universities already selected by the National Science Foundation.

Currently, the city is leaning on Kansas City for guidance on making Burlington a thriving gigabit city. Burlington officials have tapped Ray Daniels, co-chair of Kansas City’s Bi-State Innovations Team – a group that is helping the community find ways to take advantage of its newly rolled out Google fiber.

To follow best practices coming out of gigabit cities like Kansas City and Chattanooga, Tenn., Burlington and U.S. Ignite have outlined five key steps:

1.    Develop Structure to Foster Applications-Driven Energy

Much like the KC Digital Drive in Kansas City, Wallace said the mayor’s advisory committee must play a key role in helping drive development.

2.    Create the Most Robust Infrastructure

Wallace said this will be particularly necessary for schools, businesses and libraries.

3.    Embrace Technology Through Community Events and Hackathons

By setting up a continuous stream of events like community hackathons, digital sandboxes and a hacker homes network similar to one developed in Kansas City, the city will be able to focus more on app development for specific capabilities, like cybersecurity or the development of complex systems.

4.    Share Practices With Other Cities to Deploy Networks

This could also mean sharing practices on how to generate applications.

5.    Tap into Federal Resources

Wallace said looking to federally funded resources like the National Science Foundation will be important when building out the infrastructure and developing applications.


Sarah Rich is a former staff writer for Government Technology.