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Universities as Hubs for Next-Generation Networks

Based on a request for information (RFI) submitted to The University Community Next Generation Innovation Project (Gig.U), the paper describes a model for universities to develop next generation  broadband infrastructure in their communities. In our view universities can play a critical role in spurring next generation networks into their communities through use of their physical infrastructure to extend high-speed Internet access and sharing their expertise and resources to support engagement and participation by community members, businesses, and institutions. 

We propose a network model that integrates both high-capacity fiber deployments to community anchor institutions along with community-driven wireless mesh deployments, a device-as-infrastructure network architecture that operates using commonly available WiFi equipment, to create connectivity for local neighborhoods. The model enables universities and communities to 1) provide affordable, scalable broadband access to end-users; 2) empower and engage community members through a collaborative deployment process; and 3) create a sustainable ecosystem of connectivity to further drive community development. In addition to expanding next-generation high-speed Internet access, the model allows for the creation of a community-wide intranet to develop local applications and serve as a platform for community data collection and research to better understand challenges relating to mobility, health, safety, urban management, and education. The paper also provides recommendations for universities to engage and identify local stakeholders and needs, build and finance network infrastructure, and for engaging community members in the build-out of wireless mesh networks.

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