Huntsville, Alabama Could Have the Fastest Internet in the Country

Last December, we wrote about Huntsville, Alabama’s quest to become the next gig city. It wasn’t the next in line after Chattanooga, but when its new network comes online, it may be the best and fastest. Mayor Frank Battle mentioned fiber as an important piece of infrastructure for attracting new businesses to the area, and if Huntsville’s new lure is as shiny as the city claims, they may soon land some whoppers. That bait is a business-oriented 100 Gbps network, so let’s hope this tale isn’t just another fishing story. Too Good to Be True? Actually, the news gets better. Network builder Southern Light will construct a 120-mile fiber loop, and it claims the core of this network will support terabit-speed data transfers. It’s the branches from the main network that will only be capable of the 100-gig download speeds. If the new network delivers as promised, Huntsville could have the fastest Internet in the country. Those unfamiliar with local history might not know that the city was a pioneering community in one of the great technological advances of the last century. Huntsville is home to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, which played a critical role in developing the Saturn V rocket that sent American astronauts to the moon. It may not be a big city, but it’s hardly a backwater. If network building is rocket science, Huntsville has that covered. Trickle-down Connectivity As mentioned earlier, the network will be aimed at commercial subscribers because there’s probably not a lot of market for consumer 100 Gbps plans. It’s not that consumer subscribers wouldn’t want that kind of speed, but the price would likely be prohibitively expensive, at least at first. It’s difficult to imagine what the price tag for this connection would be. That said, Southern Light says it will allow other Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to purchase access to the network, so it’s almost a certainty that at least one ISP will do so and offer consumer service. Assuming that’s the case, there’s no reason to assume the ISP couldn’t make—and this is a phrase we didn’t think we’d ever write—speeds in the low-gigabit range much more affordable. Backup Plans But in case that doesn’t happen for some reason, Huntsville continues to review more than a dozen consumer-oriented responses to its original request for proposals. That request specified gigabit speeds as a requirement, so it looks as if, one way or another, Huntsville residents will soon have a gigabit-capable network. False Modesty “Any bandwidth you see available in Los Angeles or New York or Washington, D.C., will be available here in Huntsville and Madison, on our network,” Southern Light’s CEO Andy Newton said. But that’s not really something to brag about. New York and California don’t have anywhere near this kind of speed. As we said in December, fiber is poised to be the new critical infrastructure for the coming century. If the new network proceeds as planned, residents of our unofficial West Coast and East Coast capitals might need to compare themselves to Huntsville, not the other way around. Odds are, you’re now comparing your own connection to what’s coming to Huntsville. No matter which service provider you have, they probably won’t win that comparison, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle. Enter your zip code below to find out what the best plan in your area is. [zipfinder] Photo Credit: David Ellis/Flikr

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Will Smith is a copywriter living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. His favorite word is “petrichor,” and aside from wordplay, he loves reading history, watching Dodger baseball, and racing with the Sports Car Club of America.

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