Chattanooga and Kansas City may have gotten all of the headlines about delivering 1 Gbps broadband service to individual customers. But a small test network deployed by Case Western Reserve University and OneCommunity in Cleveland actually preceded both of those initiatives—and the university’s vice president of information technology services Lev Gonick now hopes to leverage what was learned from that test network to generate further high-speed network deployments.

Case Western Reserve is one of 37 universities that have come together to support the Gig U project launched earlier this year,  which aims to “accelerate the deployment of ultra-high-speed networks to leading U.S. universities and their surrounding communities” in order to “drive economic growth and stimulate a new generation of innovations addressing critical needs such as health care and education.”

Director of the Gig U initiative is Blair Levin, who headed up the team that crafted the National Broadband Plan—and last week Gig U took a key step in realizing its vision when it released a 100+ page request for information to the communications service provider industry with the goal of gauging interest in working with the university community to support ultra-high-speed broadband deployments.

Each of the participating universities offered information about itself and about the surrounding community, such as population size, average income, and the percentage of the people in the community who have completed college. In a “Community Goals and Next-Generation Networking Opportunities” section, each university also outlined what it would hope to accomplish with an ultra- high-speed network.

Case Western, for example, requests 1 Gbps connectivity within a 5 kilometer radius of the university, with the goal of building on the experiences of its initial trial network. That network, which was deployed in May 2010, covered about 100 homes and supported applications such as a video-based neighborhood watch and a video-based exercise program for senior citizens in which seniors were directed by a university specialist in their own homes.

Gig U seems to be gaining momentum. After starting with just 28 universities back in July, the organization now claims 37 member universities. As Nick Judd noted in a recent blog post for TechPresident, service providers also responded positively to the Gig U concept when it was announced—“but it won’t be until Gig U receives responses to Thursday’s request for information that it will be entirely clear if that was genuine enthusiasm or politess.”

Responses to the RFI are due November 9.