C Spire Wireless, headquartered in Ridgeland, Mississippi and the eighth largest wireless provider in the United States, is offering nine Mississippi cities the chance to be the first city in the Southeast United States to have one gigabyte fiber internet access. Following in the steps of the Google competition that resulted in Kansas City becoming the first city in the United States to have gigabyte internet, C Spire is also conducting a race. Batesville, Clinton, Corinth, Hattiesburg, Horn Lake, McComb, Quitman, Ridgeland, and Starkville are the nine finalists in the fiber competition.
Kansas City is already reaping the benefits of gigabyte internet. Future-oriented businesses are going to gravitate toward areas that offer the kind of infrastructure that can handle their increasing need for speed. Entrepreneurs are reportedly flocking to Kansas City in droves and new technologies are being created to utilize this mostly untapped resource.
Most areas of the country face either a monopoly or duopoly for acquiring internet service. The new service offerings from Google and C Spire are upping the ante for all internet providers. Not only are they offering unprecedented (in the US) speed, but they are offering it for less than what people are already paying for “high-speed” internet that averages only 1/100 of the speed. Since most locations have no more than two internet options, prices are high and customer service is deplorable. Jason Roden, owner of StaggerIn, a Cotton District sports bar and grill in Starkville, MS sums up what many people feel by saying, “I would switch from AT&T in a heartbeat.”
With such an offer, it would seem that everyone would be rushing to pre-register. The fee to do so is $10 which is refundable if the network is not built in that specific neighborhood. If the network is built, the $10 will be applied to the first bill.
Starkville has a strong track record of early adoption of technology being located on the internet backbone of the United States. Mississippi State University was the first university in Mississippi to have a computer. MSU was also the first school to offer a major in Business Information Systems. There is currently a gigabyte network on the campus and in the technology park. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the college town is leading in participation rates for the C Spire fiber network. However, even in Starkville, the rates are rising slowly considering the deal that is being offered.
Starkville’s Mayor, Parker Wiseman states, “The stories of those communities [that have gigabyte internet access] are remarkable. From increasing telecommuting and tele-medicine opportunities to spurring entrepreneurial and educational advancement, gigabit fiber to the home has proven to be nothing short of a breakthrough. I expect Starkville to have its own breakthrough story in the future,” Mayor Wiseman adds.
The only question left is: Who would pass up such an opportunity? In researching the C Spire fiber network competition, a discovery emerged: Not everyone understands the import of a gigabyte fiber network.
Incoming college students are going to check internet speeds at colleges they choose to attend. Businesses are going to locate where they have fast, reliable internet access. Some of the people with whom I spoke have no knowledge of the Google Fiber network competition on which C Spire is basing its offering. Working in IT and having a large group of friends who are programmers, gamers, and web designers I was unaware of how many people lack interest in the state of internet infrastructure in their city. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the low participation rates of the neighborhoods that are being given this incredible opportunity.
So what, then, is being done to make people aware of the advantages of participation? According to Mayor Wiseman, Starkville is “using social media and grass roots organizing to inform our citizens about the advantages of fiber to the home and how they can help Starkville attain it.” Wiseman extrapolated on these advantages by saying “It will immediately enhance everyday consumer activities such as downloading of internet content, video streaming, video gaming, and uploading of videos and pictures. Additionally, I expect it will unlock doors we don’t even know exist today as has been the case in places like Kansas City where this technology has already been introduced.”
The words of Andrew Summers, a high school math instructor living in Starkville, ring true: “The more people who know about it, the more people sign up, the more likely it is to spread across town and that means faster internet for everybody—and that is awesome.”
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