Home » OPINION » Columns » HU MEENA — Fiber fever spreads throughout the Jackson metro area

HU MEENA — Fiber fever spreads throughout the Jackson metro area

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HU MEENA

Few people noticed the lightbulb. The innovation that has come to be the very symbol of, well, a great idea. No one was against it, but few saw the potential. And who could blame them? This was a disruptive innovation that seemed out of context and excessive to functional lamp-flame light. They didn’t know what they didn’t know.

Chances are you have heard about Fiber via the C Spire 1 Gigabit per second (Gbps) Fiber to the Home program and have friendly feelings for these techy buzzwords we in the industry like to throw around. Tomorrow’s technology is commercially available today in the Mississippi communities of Starkville, Quitman and rapidly, by popular demand, in increasing sections of the Jackson metropolitan area.

Maybe someone has explained how 1 Gigabit per second is literally 100x faster than the fastest Internet you’ve ever used. Cool, you think. Everyone loves an upgrade. Faster is better and buffering is the worst. However, speeds this high have major implications.

Why is speed important? We have Internet. Why better, faster Internet? Why more? Is 1 Gig per second a triple bacon cheese burger when all you want is some snack-sized megabytes?

No. This isn’t about speed gluttony or just faster Netflix streaming.

This is about being on the cutting edge and emerging as a geographical hub for innovation, just like California’s Silicon Valley did for itself 40 years ago and Kansas City is doing today.

Here are just a couple of places fiber can take us:

1. Better access to the most powerful tool for learning. Students can experience stronger engagement because our teachers would have an abundance of resources. With 1 Gigabit per second speeds, supplemental video can seamlessly be integrated into lesson plans. Educational field trips are no longer rare and costly when you can video-conference with a NASA engineer right from your fourth grade classroom. Enhanced digital learning, which is quickly becoming educational table stakes, is no longer reserved for only the kids fortunate enough to have access to parent or school-provided laptops. Any connected device or screen able to access this much bandwidth can interact with literally the best educational content in the world – in seconds.

2. Draw the most aggressive entrepreneurs and business innovators. Lead in enhanced digital learning and attract entrepreneurs, and jobs will follow. It’s simple, but so very important. In 2012, Kansas City was the first city in the country to get 1 Gigabit internet through Google Fiber, and they have seen incredible growth in the private sector because of it. Access to fiber led to the settlement of the Kansas City Startup Village. This is a grassroots movement that’s successfully grown a dense community of startups. They’ve received $8 million in investment dollars and created over 75 jobs. This is just one startup village! And they’re turning companies away because they’ve run out of space. Even beyond startups, fiber has the potential to make big companies with big data needs move or outsource wherever that need can be met…So, why not here?

This is our chance to position the Jackson metro area as a national leader. Today, C Spire has state-of-the-art fiber optic cable routed throughout much of Jackson and the metro area connecting schools, commercial zones and business districts. We have successfully launched Fiber to the Home in Ridgeland and Clinton. Soon, “fiberhoods” in Jackson, Madison and Madison County will be on-line. Other metro area municipalities will follow. We have the unique opportunity to replicate, if not surpass, the growth realized in Kansas City born from 1 Gigabit Internet. This has the potential to transform the Jackson metro area so that soon we could be home to a new generation of technology companies. We have a huge head start, but 15 years from now almost all metro areas will have broadband at these speeds and the window will be closed.

We need to begin to recruit the Internet entrepreneurs and technology driven companies that would swoon over this kind of speed. More metro area educational, municipal and community development leaders need to aggressively leverage the tremendous investment C Spire has made and is making in fiber optic infrastructure and ultra-fast broadband Internet to drive future growth and expansion. With everyone’s commitment and creativity, we can make this place a hub for technology investment, innovation and growth.

If you only had one lightbulb, I doubt you would say your life has been improved by the wonder of electricity. Our schools, our hospitals, our businesses, our tech revolutionaries brewing the next big thing in a garage down the street; all of these could reach their full potential with more lightbulbs.

Fiber is the lightbulb! Fiber is boxes and boxes of more lightbulbs.

» Hu Meena is a resident of Jackson and a Mississippi-based technology executive.

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