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Hello Cleveland! City Plans 100-Gig Network

Cleveland is partnering with a host of public- and private-sector organizations to build a downtown high-speed broadband hub.

Cleveland’s proposed 100 gigabits per second (Gbps) fiber network doesn't tune to “11” like Nigel Tufnel’s guitar amplifier in Spinal Tap, but city officials hope increased Internet access will deliver a similar sonic boom to its downtown core.

Through a partnership with a number of companies and educational institutions, Cleveland will develop what project leaders tout as the nation’s first commercially available gigabit network. Once complete, the system will connect Cleveland’s Health-Tech Corridor (HTC) to University Circle.

The HTC is a three-mile stretch of health- and bio-tech businesses and hospitals, along with Case Western Reserve University.

Announced on Friday, Nov. 21, the $1.02 million project is being supported by a $700,000 Economic Development Administration Grant from the federal government. Cleveland and OneCommunity, a nonprofit organization that works to expand broadband adoption, will supply the additional funding. Case Western Reserve University and ideastream, a media services collective, are the other partners in the endeavor.

“With the announcement of this 100 Gbps network, Cleveland is established as a center for innovation, while providing our area businesses with a competitive advantage that will allow more job opportunities to be created,” said Cleveland Mayor Frank G. Jackson, in a statement.

The idea isn’t novel. The California Research & Education Network (CalREN) upgraded to 100 Gbps last week. In addition, Seattle tried a similar experiment broadband expansion last year with a company called Gigabit Squared to bring fiber-to-the-home and fiber-to-the-business service to 14 neighborhoods in the city. But the deal went south earlier this year.

Lev Gonick, CEO of OneCommunity, said he felt that Cleveland’s project would be more successful. In an email to Government Technology, he cited his organization’s 10-year track record in similar ventures as a difference-maker.

In addition, Gonick noted that network adoptees would occur in three phases, starting with anchor institutions such as universities and health-care providers. Following that will be data center partners, and then finally a wave of 17 private developers that will bring 100-gig service into office parks and facilities along the HTC.

The one group that doesn’t benefit from Cleveland’s plans, however, are residents. Gonick said that he doesn’t “see residential users adopting 100-gig services in the near term."

When pressed to elaborate, a spokesperson confirmed that OneCommunity’s current business model is exclusively business-to-business.

Construction of the network is scheduled to begin in early 2015. It is tentatively set for completion next summer.

Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines from 2011 to mid-2015.