Startup Gigabit Squared has raised $200 million to fund gigabit-per-second broadband projects in six university communities across the US, the company announced yesterday.

Gigabit Squared will work with the University Community Next Generation Innovation Project (Gig.U), a coalition of 30 universities focused on improved broadband, to select six communities in which to build the ultra-fast broadband networks, they said. The two organisations will select winning communities between November and the first quarter of 2013, said Mark Ansboury, president of Gigabit Squared.

The new project comes at an important time, when many commercial broadband providers have stopped deploying next-generation networks, said Blair Levin, executive director of Gig.U and lead author of the US Federal Communications Commission's 2010 national broadband plan.

The strong backing for Gigabit Squared proves that, "yes, America needs an upgrade, and that, yes, there are investors and innovators willing to step up to get it done," Levin said.

High-speed broadband requires a new business model, Ansboury said. "It's time for a departure from the strategies of the past, strategies that merely looked a fulfilling current demand," he said.

The new Gigabit Neighborhood Gateway Program will focus on using broadband to drive innovations in education, health care, public safety and other sectors, Ansboury said. Many of the innovations that will come from the ultra-fast networks will be ideas that founders of the program can't anticipate, he said.

The programme will create demonstration projects in Gig.U communities to serve as models for other regional broadband networks, Ansboury said. The new networks will use an open architecture.

The new program has partnerships with several companies, including Corning, G4S, Juniper Networks, Alcatel Lucent, Ericson and Level 3, Ansboury said. Funding comes from private sources.

The project will focus on creating a self-funding service that doesn't depend on government funding or subsidies, Levin said. "We're very excited about the notion that the private sector is stepping up to this, because it can build that sustainable model," he said.