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1-gigabit Internet connection could power free WiFi service downtown.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
More than two decades have passed since Virginia Tech and Blacksburg joined forces to develop an “electronic village” with Internet access available to every home, school and business in town. Now a Blacksburg business incubator, with help from a virtual village of investors, is poised to move the downtown area to the fast lane of the information superhighway.
TechPad plans to establish a 1-gigabit network connection that is 100 times faster than the average Internet link, and scarcely available outside of major cities. TechPad is relying on “crowd funding” to raise $85,000 to defray installation costs and fund a year of operations beginning as early as August. As of Thursday, the campaign had raised more than $49,000.
The lightning-speed Internet service would be available to TechPad tenants and should draw new talent and capital investment to the town, founder Bob Summers said. But bringing “the Gig” to Blacksburg won’t just benefit tech-savvy startups and software designers. TechPad also plans to extend free, wireless Internet access to the heart of downtown Blacksburg, a generous reward for the community’s support.
Roanoke established one of the state’s first free wireless zones a decade ago. Charlottesville installed a free WiFi network when it refurbished its historic Downtown Mall in 2009. In his online crowd-funding pitch for the Blacksburg project, Summers envisions wireless hot spots lighting up Main Street from Kent Square to Henderson Lawn, with users having access to “blazing speeds.”
TechPad will provide 1 megabit of free WiFi service if it reaches its $85,000 fundraising goal, and could offer faster speeds if contributions exceed that target. The campaign — found at www.crowdtilt.com — runs through June 5.
TechPad’s initiative has exciting possibilities for downtown Blacksburg. With community support, “the Gig” could be the next big thing in the electronic village.
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