Cities vie for C Spire fiber technology

Published 2:54 pm Tuesday, October 22, 2013

JACKSON (AP) — C Spire’s initiative to put ultra-high-speed Internet and digital television service in Mississippi homes is moving as fast as the product itself.

The Ridgeland-based telecommunication company said Sept. 24 that it was expanding its services with a statewide fiber optic that includes internet at speeds up to 1 gigabyte per second — about 100 times faster than normal.

Now, the race is on. C Spire is asking cities within its existing fiber optics network to compete for the right to be the first with “Fiber to the Home.” The deadline for proposals is Oct. 20, three weeks after a Town Hall meeting with representatives of 53 cities and 10 counties, outlining how their communities can be the first with the 1 gig service.

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“It would mean a whole lot to have the fiber services to give residents the opportunity to have this,” said Ridgeland Mayor Gene McGee. “It would be important to those who work from home, and because we have an excellent quality of life here, it would be the icing on the cake.

“We are the Google eCity of Mississippi this year, and we have a lot of high-tech companies. We have a lot of fiber already installed here and obviously we have the people who will use it.”

“It’s just brand new technology, and we’re always looking for an edge. There’s no telling where it will lead,” said Tommy Irwin, mayor of Corinth, which is aggressively pursuing the initiative through a social media campaign.

“We’re excited about it. It’s just another piece of the puzzle.”

“This is one of those campaigns that comes along once in a lifetime,” said Mark Jones, communication director for City of Clinton.

“To be the first to bring fiber to our homes would be testament to city and its interest in business and education.”

C Spire will announce finalists on Nov. 4. After that, it will open a formal pre-registration process where homeowners will be asked to pay a nominal fee to sign up for the service. That’s when pricing for the Internet access, digital home phone and digital television service will be disclosed.

Mississippi cities won’t be the first to provide fiber optics connections to the home, but it may be one of the first by a regional telecommunications company. It was reported at the recent Fiber to the Home conference in Tampa, Fla., that the number of connections in North America has passes the 10 million mark.

Google Fiber is undertaking the initiative in Kansas City, and other cities, such as Chattanooga, Tenn., and Lafayette, La., have piggybacked high-speed services as their local utility companies built fiber optic networks. In Austin, Texas, AT&T plans to go head-to-head with Google over a fiber-based network.

When Google introduced Fiber to Kansas City, the metropolitan area was divided into “fiberhoods.” They then asked residents to pre-register with a $10 fee. Between 5 percent and 25 percent of households had to pre-register over a six-week period before the neighborhood could get the internet service.

Residential pricing for C Spire’s product has not yet been announced.

C Spire plans a faster, deeper roll-out than Google is using in Kansas City. C Spire has about 4,000 miles of fiber optics already installed to support its 4G LTE and Business Solutions networks. Another 1,500 miles is scheduled to be installed next year.

As part of the plan, C Spire is looking for cities that will move quickly with C Spire in building its network, including fast construction permitting, advantageous access to public rights of way and other incentives.

“We are going to bend over backward to make sure this gets done,” said McGee. “I think this will help the city as a whole. It will help the school system and just the connection between buildings would be tremendous.”

“I told our alderman that I’ve spent a lifetime in industry making deals,” Irwin said of Corinth’s willingness to cooperate. “A deal might not bring me a margin right now, but it would down the road.

“When you look at what our deal will be, you’ll be able to tell that the City of Corinth will be ready right out of the chute.”

Chattanooga and Lafayette both met opposition from existing cable networks when they ventured into those waters. That won’t be the case with C Spire, but it could become a tricky issue for cities.

“Clinton has both Comcast and AT&T U-verse as providers,” said Jones. “We will make sure our proposal is equally competitive with C Spire.”

And that fairness mentality stretches throughout the entire process.

“We’re going to make sure our proposal to C spire promotes their ability to compete, but be fair with those already in our town,” said Jones. “We’re constantly looking at the RFI process and making sure it fits within our existing framework so we don’t have to amend our fiber proposal after it’s submitted.

“But we are going to make this business friendly.”

At the Sept. 30 meeting, C Spire outlined the criteria it will use in selecting its finalists:

— A progressive spirit and action to provide fast-track construction process.

— Business terms that reduce the costs of implementation and operation.

— Sizable local demand in interest registration.

— Proximity to existing fiber

— Creative proposal from local government

“At this point in the process, it’s about cities, towns, even neighborhoods, coming together, making a difference and demanding something better for themselves and their families and friends,” Jim Richmond, vice president of Corporate Communications for C Spire, said in a news release.

“This also gives entrepreneurs and developers a chance,” said Roland Robertson, executive assistant to Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler. “It puts the human mind to work and gives it something to latch on to. Madison will be making an application to be first. We think this is such an innovation for our residents. We are trying to go all out.”

“Obviously, it will create competition that will enhance services to households and to businesses,” said McGee. “It will enhance services to businesses we serve. It will also enhance services we provide to our residents.”


Information from: Mississippi Business Journal,