One of the first cities in America with gigabit Internet availability was Chattanooga, Tenn. Google Fiber and its Kansas City gigabit network may have come first, but Chattanooga and its Electric Power Board (EPB) showed that small Southern towns and municipal networks could compete with the biggest names in broadband.
In 2014, Salisbury, N.C. joined the list of America’s gig cities after Fibrant, the town’s municipal Internet Service Provider (ISP), upgraded its fiber network. Now, only a year after proclaiming itself “America’s Gig City,” Salisbury renamed itself “America’s 10 Gig City,” becoming the first community in the country to offer 10 Gbps broadband service to the public. The new service, the company says, is 300 times faster than the average download speed in the country.
An Unlikely Pioneer
Salisbury’s self-proclamation comes despite the fact that North Carolina is one of the states that sued the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) over pre-emption of state laws barring the creation of municipal networks. Fibrant’s decision to upgrade from 1 Gbps to 10 Gbps in such a short amount of time is based on the company’s claim that consumer bandwidth doubles every two years. Instead of being satisfied with a network more than capable of serving current demand, the company wanted a network more than capable of serving future demand.
Who needs that much speed?
Salisbury’s first 10-gig customer is Catawba College, and Fibrant admits that few residents will want to pay the $400 per month fee for this speed. Although the town is home to only 33,000 residents, it’s also the home for the headquarters of several important regional businesses, including Food Lion supermarkets and Carolina Beverage Corporation. Fibrant believes the 10 Gbps speeds will help lure new businesses to the area. The company also mentions the Internet of Things (IoT), 3D printing, virtual reality conferencing, and medical imaging as technologies that will also benefit from the higher speed and bandwidth now available.
According to Fibrant, the availability of 10 Gbps service will even benefit subscribers who don’t opt for that kind of speed. The upgrades required to make 10-gig service possible make the network as a whole more reliable, as peak usage time slowdowns are now reportedly over. It’s also fair to assume that over time, availability of 10 Gbps will lower the price of other Fibrant packages, including the $105-per-month 1 Gbps service.
A new standard?
Salisbury and Fibrant showed the world that 10 Gbps service is not only possible, but practical. Now we wonder if other ISPs will follow this example. Although larger ISPs like Google have much more money, they also tend to offer service in cities that are much larger, requiring more infrastructure. With that said, it’s also worth asking whether future network construction should concentrate on 10 Gbps capability rather than 1 Gbps access. For example, Salisbury’s network could be a legitimate threat to business customers who were eyeing Google’s plans to expand into nearby Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
Is “The Gig” gone?
Gigabit service is very fast and faster than most consumers need. There are still many areas of the country where 1 Gbps service is unavailable, but in areas where fiber networks already exist, multi-gig speeds, such as the 2 Gbps available in Atlanta, are becoming more common. That’s not the only step in making faster speeds available everywhere, but it’s a big one.