Okay, here's a borrowed analogy. My grandmother talked about the light bill to refer to what you call the electricity bill. And, that's because she lived at a time when literally, that's all electricity did-power the lights. And now, all sorts of things run on that same power.
The people on our show today will tell you that's what's happening to what you call an internet service provider. You've been using it for the information equivalent of my grandmother's household lights. You use it to connect a handful of laptops and phones through a wireless set-up which in turn is your on-ramp to the internet. But, in the very immediate future, all sorts of things will be connected to the internet. The uses of digital information are exploding but the line that runs to your house doesn't have the bandwidth to do all that new stuff.
Chattanooga, Tennessee is leading the way. In 2010, EPB, the city-owned utility used bonds, private funds and federal stimulus money, installed an ultrahigh-speed fiber-optic network that transfers data at one gigabit per second, or about 50 times the average speed for homes in the rest of the country.
While Chattanooga initially installed it to stabilize their power grid, they've since found uses they never dreamed they had. It's sparked economic growth, improved public safety, made government services more efficient, and offered faster service to consumers. Other cities are taking note.
So, why aren't more cities jumping on board? They are, but it's slow and filled with obstacles from powerful and well-funded internet providers who will fight to keep the status quo, including the FCC and their decision on net neutrality. But, conditions in Connecticut make it ripe to be the next "Gig" state. Can we do it?
- Blair Levin is the Executive Director of the Gig.U project, a consortium of research university communities seeking to accelerate the deployment of next generation broadband networks in the U.S. He’s a former FCC Chief of Staff and lead the team that wrote the 2010 National Broadband Plan.
- Elin Katz is Connecticut's Consumer Counsel
- Lon Seidman is the technology writer for CTNewsJunkie.com