What would you do with a 100-gigabit connection? This is what Clevelanders are thinking about now with the news that the “Rock and Roll Capital of the World” will begin building the nation’s fastest commercial Internet connection this January.

Those who helped bring about this project have said “This will set the gold standard for connectivity” and “The commercial Internet is being reinvented in Cleveland.” Local business leaders have big plans to go along with those high hopes. John Foley, chief information officer, University Hospitals, told Cleveland.com that this supercharged connectivity will change the patient-doctor relationship as doctors will be able to easily access electronic health records, high-resolution images and vast libraries of medical data. Manuel Mencia, president, ByteGrid, told the same publication about his company’s new data center in Cleveland and the “unexpected windfall” to ByteGrid’s customers that the 100-gigabit connectivity will bring about. While Cleveland residents will have to wait five to seven years to subscribe to this future network’s service, undoubtedly what they can eventually do with this blisteringly fast connectivity – even many enterprises do not yet require 100-gigabit – will herald a new era in Internet communications technology.

Networks are the Atlas of our digital world, shouldering the burden of information exchange. I was CEO of Ixia in 2010 when we introduced the first 100-gigabit Ethernet connection, a 100,000x improvement in speed from the 1-megabit Ethernet connection I worked on at the beginning of my career at Tektronix. Since the advent of 100-gigabit connectivity, we’ve witnessed a rise in bandwidth-intensive applications such as telemedicine, distance learning, not to mention the support of explosive sharing of rich media over social networks. Net effects spread far beyond the operating room and class room. Employees can opt for a virtual doctor visit instead of taking time off for an appointment, which is playing a part in disrupting the economics of employer-paid healthcare. By 2019, education experts predict that 50 percent of U.S. high school curriculums will be delivered via distance learning, a shift to blended learning aimed at filling budgetary gaps and teacher shortages.

As with other leaps forward in speed, different industries will find an immediate use for this speed, while others will innovate to find future applications. In looking at a future that a 100-gigabit connection enables, we see that a rising tide lifts all boats. So the question becomes not what would we do at this speed, but where will it take us? If you are operating a 100-gigabit network and have any thoughts on applications not mentioned here, we’d love to hear your opinions in the comments below or on our new community forum.

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