Quitman is tiny in population but huge in terms of the technological advance it took on Tuesday as the first Mississippi community to activate C Spire’s ultra-high speed 1 Gbps (Gigabit per second) broadband Internet network.
The Clarke County town of 2,300 people was joined on Wednesday by Starkville and Ridgeland in turning on the one gig Fiber to the Home service, said C Spire.
C Spire, a Ridgeland diversified telecommunications and technology services company, said initiation of the service gives Quitman a boost after its struggle in recent years with job losses, plant closings and population shifts to bigger cities.
Quitman is now among only a handful of cities in the United States with access to fiber-based broadband Internet that is 100 times faster than the national average along with super HD TV and related home phone services from C Spire, the company said in a press statement Tuesday.
“The implications of a robust, widely available and ultra-fast Internet infrastructure are potentially huge for local, regional and state economic advances and technology investment,” said Tony Jeff, chief executive officer of Innovate Mississippi, a non-profit organization that seeks to strengthen and grow a culture of innovation in the Magnolia State.
Quitman Mayor Eddie Fulton was a major force behind the town’s efforts to secure and build the next-generation Internet service. “We see a bright future for our town with widespread availability of high speed Internet,” Fulton said. “Thanks to C Spire’s investment, we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to move the needle in a different direction.”
Local government, business and community leaders joined C Spire executives to celebrate the historic step for the town at a news conference Monday outside the home of Quitman residents Roger and Karen Kennedy, who are among the first gigabit Internet customers in the town.
Roger Kennedy said residents are excited about getting improved services and for the prospect of helping the city become a hub for technology investment, economic expansion and a better quality of life. “For Quitman, it’s all there in front of us now,” he said.
The city was one of the first to qualify for the next-generation services earlier this year along with areas in the cities of Starkville and Ridgeland.
One key ingredient to success is the need to educate and advise consumers about the capabilities of the infrastructure for individuals as well as the broader community, said Roberto Gallardo, director of the Mississippi State University Center for Technology Outreach. Gallardo recently forged an agreement with the New York-based Intelligent Community Foundation to start an Intelligent Community Institute in Mississippi that will help cities better understand how to use the 21st century infrastructure.
C Spire is on a mission to move Quitman and other Mississippi cities from worst to first in national rankings for average Internet speeds and consumer access to super-fast broadband services, according to Suzy Hays, senior vice president of consumer markets.
“Fiber to the Home can be a transformative technology for communities, serving as a platform for innovation and a host of new Internet applications and experiences yet to be imagined,” Hays said. “We’re determined to show the world that Quitman and these other cities are ready to be a catalyst for technology investment, economic growth and job creation.”
Homeowner pre-registration in the cities began in December. Since that time, local government, community and business leaders have rallied residents in Quitman, Ridgeland and Starkville to sign up at levels that qualified multiple areas in each city for the service. Construction started in May in the first neighborhoods.
Hays said the strong support and engagement of cities is the primary reason for the fast-moving initiative’s success thus far. Since announcing the cities last November, C Spire has moved from vision to reality in 12 months. In contrast, Google, one of the largest technology companies in the world, took nearly three years before it selected and began offering Gigabit fiber services in Kansas City, Kansas.
“Our initiative is a great example of what can be accomplished when cities, communities and business leaders work together to move Mississippi forward,” she said.
For C Spire customers, the 1 Gbps Internet access is available for $70 a month, $90 a month for combined Internet and home phone, $130 for Internet and HD digital TV and $150 a month for the entire package of all three services. Non customers must to pay an additional $10 a month on all packages.
The Ridgeland telecom company used its extensive wireless network as the foundation for the Fiber to the Home project.
Meanwhile, Comcast plans to begin offering residential ultra-fast Internet speed sometime in 2015. However, the national cable television and telecommunications company has not announced the initial markets for its “DOCSIS 3.1” system it says will be capable of delivering 1gigabit to 10 gigabit speed. “This has the potential to benefit millions of homes, as opposed to select areas,” said Comcast spokesman Alex Horwitz in an email.
“DOCSIS 3.1 will be the primary way we’ll deliver gigabit speeds at scale to the vast majority of our residential customers locally and nationally,” Horwitz added.
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