Washington D.C. went live with the first link of a 100-gigabit network Wednesday. The new network, called the D.C. Community Access Network (DC-CAN), will provide links out to communities east of the Anacostia River, but the ultra-high-speed network will soon serve the entire District.
Unlike what Google is building in Kansas City, this isn’t crazy-fast fiber to the home; it’s a city-owned, middle mile, network link other providers can tap into in order to deliver faster broadband to homes and businesses. The 100-gigabit fiber network will connect out to the big long-haul networks run by Level 3 Communications (s lvlt) and other providers, offering a way for existing or new ISPs to connect to the larger web. In many areas, these middle mile links are owned by AT&T (s T) and Verizon (s vz), and it can be expensive, difficult or impossible to connect out to them.
So while the network may not seem fabulous today, it most decidedly could be. Already, 24 community anchor institutions such as libraries, schools and other municipal buildings are connected to the 100-gig network. As the network expands, the city hopes to link up to 199 more. And having a low-cost, middle mile network could entice other service providers to hook up D.C. homes and businesses with faster broadband access. The network was funded in part by federal broadband stimulus funds and is expected to be complete by 2013.
While many of the nation’s politicians don’t live in D.C. proper, I would love for this type of network to act as a showcase for how important the Internet can be for the average citizen. In many ways, it seems like the Web and technology industry speak a completely different language than politicos. Perhaps better broadband could help bridge that gap.