"As the first city-owned 100G network in the nation, DC-CAN positions the District to deliver cost-effective "middle-mile" services as ultra-high capacity to government entities and private-sector Internet Service Providers into the future. The network's capacity surpasses that of other municipal networks, including those in California's Silicon Valley and other major tech hubs," said a statement from Gray's Office of Communications.
At a press conference to announce the new 100G network, Gray played up the network's ability to expand the city's technology capacity, assist with attracting technology innovators desiring to establish firms in the city, and spur greater economic growth and job creation.
"This network puts the District on the map as we strive to become a leading tech hub and I think that is the most important aspect of this," said Gray. "This isn't just about making sure East of the River has technology capacity, this about building a capacity in the entire city, especially relative to other jurisdictions around the country."
Gray also mentioned that the network will help support D.C.'s efforts to support STEM curricula in its STEM designated schools like H.D. Wilson High School, Langley Education Campus, and McKinley Tech High School.
Wilhelm said that "one of the priorities of the Obama administration is extending affordable access to high speed Internet or broadband in America," and that the Recovery Act provided funding for NTIA to award D.C. more than $27 million to support projects to increase broadband access and adoption.
That's critical considering the District's high school graduation rate is 73%, two points below the national average. It was 72.3% in the 2008-2009 academic year, according to data released by D.C.'s Office of the State Superintendent of Education.
More than 20 community anchor institutions are connected to DC-CAN at the moment, but Wilhelm said that number would grow to over 200.
"We're providing direct broadband Internet connections to approximately 220 community institutions such as schools, libraries and community colleges, health care facilities, and public safety facilities, which will enable them to better serve D.C. residents," said Wilhelm. He added that high speed broadband would help facilitate better learning for District students, help District agencies and emergency response services to provide faster service, and reduce wait time at public computer work stations.
So far, the feedback from those using the network is rather positive. The District typically serves as an experimental laboratory for creative social and policy projects, so many eyes will be watching nationally to see if this latest effort will be a model worth replicating.
At a recent press conference, Victoria Roberts, Deputy Director of Community of Hope, a District nonprofit that provides services like healthcare and housing to homeless and low-income city residents, expressed thanks on behalf of the community anchor institutions using DC-CAN.
"The opportunity to participate in something which is the best in the world, and to combine that kind of Internet service with our electronic health system which we are using in our clinics — our patients are getting state of the art medical care," she said, adding that her organization is "getting seven times the bandwidth," by using the network "for the same price that we were paying to a commercial vendor."