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Summary:

Consumer applications have driven the rapid take up of faster broadband services in the U.S. in the last decade. But as Google and others build gigabit networks to see what can be done with them, it’s time to bring businesses back into the innovation cycle.

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Consumer applications have driven the rapid take up of faster broadband services in the U.S. in the last decade as people downloaded iTunes songs and apps and watched streaming movies via Netflix. But as Google and others build gigabit networks to see what can be done with them, maybe it’s time to bring businesses back into the innovation cycle.

In Chattanooga, Tenn. the creation of a gigabit network has led to the formation of an incubator that wants to attract startups to the city this summer to play around with the nation’s first gigabit network. I spoke with Jack Studer, the managing partner at Lamp Post Group, which is the incubator hosting the contest, on what kinds of applications might drive people to get a gig.

Studer explained that while consumer applications were fun, the lack of other gigabit networks around the country made it a bit difficult to justify building a startup or business that needs a gigabit connection. Even if Studer has the bandwidth to receive a massively fat 3-D holographic image of me for a video conference, I couldn’t reciprocate on my 60 Mbps cable connection (that really delivers 30 Mbps) so building a consumer 3-D holographic web conferencing business is probably a long shot. Other similarly bandwidth-intensive ideas are also out … for now.

“Startups that require a gig — well, that business plan would suck. It’s like building up a business based on teleportation. It doesn’t exist yet,” said Studer.

Where the gigabit network really shines is business productivity says Studer. He points out that he can do things between his offices in Chattanooga that are truly business-changing such as real-time and continual data backups and replication. And that’s just the beginning. Studer has ideas around connecting distributed compute nodes around the city that could essentially turn Chattanooga into a giant supercomputer.

Gigabit speed, and the fact that no applications today require such speeds, mean a variety of services that now run on the computer might run in the network instead without it affecting the end-user. That has implications for data processing and the creation of new services based on an intelligent network. Such services might even become necessary as we connect more devices to the network.

For example, if we have a smart home where our computers, CE devices and even our lighting or appliances are connected to the network, we have to think about securing all of those endpoints. The current model of having antivirus software sitting on a PC no longer makes sense, but what about putting it on the network? A fast network means one could run services such as antivirus on the network without the user noticing.

But to bring the future to life, Studer needs students, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs to come to Chattanooga to play around with the network. Who’s up for the challenge?

  1. What if for every dollar spent on inviting developers TO Chattanooga, Studer and other VC’s spent spent a dollar investing in growing developers WITHIN Chattanooga? The current generation of developers may live in Silicon Valley or NYC, but what about students in middle and high school and Chattanooga who are going to be looking for jobs and careers in just a few years and (1) Are already in Chattanooga (2) Already love Chattanooga ?

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  2. It is a fundamental misunderstanding of networks to say the justification for a gigabit connection is because “one” application needs it. Or even with less insight, to ask what is that application that needs a gigabit speed? That is like saying that we build a 6 lane, high-speed, freeway so that “one” car that is six lanes wide can shoot down the road without any other cars getting in its way. How absurd!

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