US Ignite Receives $6M NSF Grant to Develop Gigabit ‘Living Labs’


US Ignite, a non-profit focused on fostering technological development, has been awarded a $6 million grant from the National Science Foundation to build a living lab of testbeds for smart gigabit applications in 15 cities. The announcement was part of a White House event held today, where the Obama Administration laid out its plan to support smart city projects nationwide.

The end result of the grant will be a growing number of communities nationwide participating in a “smart city app store” for interoperable and interconnected smart gigabit community applications addressing national priorities.

The public-private partnership will last for three years and will include researchers, citizens, community organizations, technology companies, entrepreneurs, academics and federal, state and local governments.

Participating communities include: Burlington, VT; Chattanooga, TN; Cleveland, OH; Flint, MI; Kansas City, KS & MO; Madison, WI; the North Carolina Next Generation Network (NCNGN); Richardson, TX; Utah Wasatch Front cities including Salt Lake City and Provo, UT; Lafayette, LA; Urbana-Champaign, IL; and Austin, TX.

Each of these US Ignite communities will receive access to a low-latency and ultra-fast network with locavore (local cloud) computing and storage capabilities. Communities will also receive technical assistance from US Ignite staff and partners in designing and developing applications to take advantage of the new network connections including access to fund accelerators and technical staff.

Dr. Jon Gant, Professor and Director of the Center for Digital Inclusion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and UC2B Board Vice Chair highlighted what his school plans to do to help with Urbana’s participation in the project. “The timing of the US Ignite NSF grant is perfect for UC2B and our partner cities. As any of the gig fiber projects nationally will share, it takes time to build a new network from scratch. For UC2B we built the network and connected community anchor institutions and low-income households in the first phase with federal funding through BTOP. We are now working through a public private partnership with ITV-3 to expand service to the other 90% of our community. And it’s exciting that in parallel the University of Illinois and the Urbana-Champaign private sector and high-tech community now have funding through US Ignite to continue to broaden opportunities for new research, development and community engagement to build next generation applications focused on public benefit.”

HP is acting as a primary private sector sponsor for the project.

As part of their participation, cities will fund and build two next-generation applications that will be shared among the larger, nationwide ecosystem of gigabit cities. The awards were granted to communities with strong support from local government, colleges and universities, non-profits, internet service providers and community anchor institutions.