We have been saying for years now that Philadelphia has the best grassroots tech and creative community in the world. Now it’s time to make that obvious to everyone else.
Google has created a national competition among cities for the opportunity to have ultra-high bandwidth gigabit connectivity installed in portions of the winning city. This is part of a massive social and technological experiment designed to accelerate worldwide broadband adoption.
The Google Gigabit competition ends in just eight days, on March 26, 2010.
Philly’s grassroots communities have thrown our hat in the ring with Gigabit Philly, a website spearheaded by Alex Hillman and Branimir Vasilic and built by members of Philly Startup Leaders, Indy Hall and a band of dedicated individuals. Among those individuals are City Councilman Bill Green and City Chief Technology Officer Allan Frank.
But that’s not enough. Not nearly.
Google will never choose a city where the government and the broader community doesn’t do something dramatic. We need to show that all of us can work together and dedicate ourselves to making this experiment an over-the-top success for Google.
Because as vague as Google has been with their selection criteria, we know this much: they want the winning city to use gigabit in a way that becomes the envy of the world. They want an example city that inspires other cities and towns to drastically accelerate ultra-high bandwidth adoption.
What has the city of Philadelphia done so far? Essentially nothing. Let’s not be too surprised. Government in these cases can do little. The imagination and energy is going to have to come from the grassroots. It’s time for us to take the lead.
That’s why we’re taking matters into our own hands.
Philly Startup Leaders is investing every last dollar that’s not allocated to our upcoming Entrepreneur Expo event to seed a massive community-funded prize for the best ultra-high bandwidth idea submitted to Gigabit Philly.
That’s $5,000. We’re all-in.
This money is everything we have saved in our organization’s piggybank for the last two and a half years. Yes, we know that the city has been dealing with an awful budget crisis. Yes, we know that most of the major businesses, NGOs and non-profits have been suffering too. And yes, we know that many of our startups are running on empty.
But that doesn’t make us helpless. Remember, we are a do-it-yourself city.
Philly Startup Leaders is only the spark. Our money is intended to jolt the great people of Philadelphia into action. We are counting on our friends in the grassroots community and the Philadelphia establishment to pour their money on top of ours, dwarfing our $5,000 contribution. Together, will make the prize fund so broad-based and substantial that people will hear about it all over the world.
We are counting on more than money. We are counting on the power of the community to generate hundreds if not thousands of great ideas that demonstrate that this city has the ingenuity and determination to lead the world into a new gigabit era.
Eight days is a challenge for sure. We’ll need to work at gigabit speed ourselves to collect both the prize money and the ideas that can stun and surprise us all.
Just to show that Philly truly is the city of brotherly love, anyone in the world can win the prize. Even from a competitive city. Innovation is not about one city versus another. It’s about making progress together, and so when we judge the submissions, we will be impartial. We promise.
That said, all ideas must be submitted to Gigabit Philly. We won’t review submissions anywhere else.
Movements don’t go anywhere without the courage of the first followers. Thanks so much to Neil Kleinman for commiting $1,000 from the University of the Arts’ Corzo Center for the Creative Economy, and also to City Councilman Bill Green and City CTO Allan Frank for each committing $500 of their own money.
That’s $7,000 already. Now let’s add some zeros to that. We can do this together, one donation at a time.
To contribute to the prize, make a written commitment in the comments section below this post, including the dollar amount. Also be sure to email us your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org so we can reach you (please include your phone number).
Because time is short, we will formalize this commitment process in the coming days with the help of the broader Philadelphia community. We will also nail down the selection criteria.
Now for the other critical call to action: Make some noise. If you care about the future of Philadelphia, or about the future of broadband technology more broadly, share your enthusiasm with the world.
Use every medium at your disposal and all the creativity you can muster. On Twitter, use #GigabitPhilly.
We can do this Philadelphia. We will do this.