Insiders have been seeing negative reports about the state of the US internet surfacing nearly every day, from our declining competitiveness compared to our overseas competitors to the collapse of Net Neutrality, but for a change of pace, there’s some good news to report.
The Mozilla foundation, the non-profit behind the wildly popular open source web browser Firefox, in an effort to push improvements in internet speed, has launched the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund in conjunction with the National Science Foundation and US Ignite to provide grants to software developers in Chattanooga, Tennessee and Kansas City, Kansas, cities that are currently served with gigabit fiber services.
While the $300,000 is being provided by the National Science Foundation, the funding will be disbursed by Mozilla, 10 grants to each city, in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 for local software and application developers to come up with “killer apps” that will make use of the truly voluminous, up to a billion bits per second, super-broadband deployed in those cities.
The deployment of gigabit service which provides over 50 time the internet speeds of today’s standard cable and DSL services, has seen the entrenched players dragging their feet, preferring to harvest profits from their existing infrastructure, rather than investing in the new tech that will replace it. Google Fiber, the search giant’s fiber service has already rolled out in Kansas City, Kansas and Provo, Utah with Austin, Texas and Salt Lake City already announced as the next cities on Google FIber’s agenda.
Verizon for its part rolled out a fiber internet service, Fios, but has since ceased expanding its coverage, and there are some who say that there really isn’t enough demand for the truly blazing speeds that gigabit fiber service provides, a situation the Mozilla Fund is aiming to change. The fund will award money to projects that “demonstrate how emerging gigabit technologies are relevant in people’s everyday lives.” But in keeping with the Mozilla Foundation’s Manifesto, it wants to fund applications that are “rooted in the local community, and that are pragmatic, deployable in the near term, have measurable impact, and are re-usable and shareable with others.”
One sure way to answer the complaint by carrier that ‘high speed broadband isn’t needed because there is a lack of applications that use it’ is to do exactly what Mozilla is doing, by providing incentives to break the logjam. Now when someone asks what needs to come first, connectivity or applications that use it, developers can give the correct answer – Mozilla deserves the credit for coming first instead of waiting for either or both.