Burlington, Vt. dubs itself 'Gigabit City'

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October 15, 2013, 7:38 pm
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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - US Ignite, a non-profit organization that partners with cities around the country that have access to very high internet speeds, announced Tuesday it picked Burlington, Vt. to join its efforts to encourage the development of next-generation technologies. As part of the announcement, Burlington dubbed itself "New England's Gigabit City," and laid out plans to harness its fast internet speeds as tools for economic development and other public benefit.

"We're looking for explorers to come up with the next email, the next browser, the next file transfer system," explained Bill Wallace, the executive director of US Ignite. "That's the level of transformative change we're talking about here."

US Ignite said its mission is to foster the creation of 60 next-generation internet applications in communities like Burlington. Those applications are aimed at improving healthcare, education, public safety, energy, transportation, and advanced manufacturing, Wallace explained. Some examples would include a tool that would facilitate long-distance medical consultations and the sharing of large files such as MRI images.

Burlington's new "BTV Ignite" advisory group plans to think of ways to enhance the city's already-strong technology infrastructure, develop innovation centers, and mentor tech talent, said Mayor Miro Weinberger, D-Burlington. "This is where the economy of the country is going, where the economy of the world is going," Weinberger said, describing the tech sector.

"It kind of does allow Burlington to position itself as a tech hub," observed David Provost, the vice president of Champlain College. "It sets a stage to allow innovation in the next generation of the internet in being able to do things we haven't yet been able to dream of."

The 2,300 students at Champlain College have power at their fingertips, because they're in a community that has city-wide access to internet speeds 100 times faster than the U.S. average, and capable of huge file transfers quickly. "The potential is significant, it's what do we with it," Provost said.

Provost said he is excited about how the school can tap into US Ignite's brand-new networking opportunities with other plugged-in cities around the country like Chattanooga, Tenn. and Cleveland, Ohio. The idea-sharing and new resources could help Champlain expand its programs in video game design, cyber-security, and digital forensics, Provost noted. "The potential is significant," he said.

Mayor Weinberger pointed to the growth of Dealer.com, an internet marketing company that designs websites for car sellers, as proof of the potential that tech companies located in Burlington have. Currently, 700 people work at the firm's Burlington headquarters, said Alison von Puschendorf, the director of corporate communications.

Having the city better known through the US Ignite designation as a national standout in digital entrepreneurship will help attract more tech firms and their good paychecks, von Puschendorf predicted. "I think that it's really going to get [Vermont] on the map in different ways, as opposed to just dairy products, ski resorts, and rural pastures, but there's actually an amazingly interesting technology hub growing there as well," she said.

Click here to visit the website of US Ignite.

For more on BTV Ignite, the local effort to promote tech advancement, visit this website.

Tags: vermont, technology, Burlington, Gigabit City, US Ignite, high internet speeds, New England's Gigabit City
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