Connecticut could become the first gigabit state in the country.
Gigabit broadband service, a high-speed internet technology, allows subscribers to upload and download files at one gigabit, or 1,000 megabits, per second — more than 100 times faster than the standard internet speed of nine megabits per second in most homes. In coordination with the mayors of Stamford and West Hartford, Mayor Toni Harp issued a joint Request for Qualifications last September soliciting private firms interested in building gigabit networks in the state. Responses to the RFQ were due Tuesday to State Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson-Katz, who received responses from 10 firms. They ranged from local to multinational and look to start a dialogue with municipal and state leaders about the gigabit project.
“The project is about infrastructure,” State Comptroller Kevin Lembo said. “We need to start thinking about high-speed internet the way we think about rails and roads.”
New Haven, Stamford and West Hartford are just three out of 46 Connecticut cities and towns that have expressed interest in bringing gigabit technology to their communities. The project, which will be a partnership between interested cities and developers in the private sector, has three main goals, Swanson-Katz said.
First, gigabit looks to build networks that can sustain the increased speed and volume of data transfers that gigabit will allow. Once the networks are established, internet service providers can harness the technology and offer it to subscribers. The second goal is to bring high-speed internet to disadvantaged communities within the participating cities for free or at a subsidized cost. Finally, the initiative aims to bring the service to interested parties in both the private and public sector for $70 to $90 per month. Connecticut businesses are currently paying up to $3,000 per month for Internet services that have gigabit-level capacity, putting them at a national and global economic disadvantage, according to Swanson-Katz.
“That so many Connecticut cities have joined this effort is heartening and confirms for me the pent-up demand for high-capacity digital connectivity in support of commerce, research and 21st century life in our state,” Harp said in a statement.
Lembo said that the gigabit networks can be built around New Haven’s existing infrastructure. City utility poles are separated into three parts, and while two parts are set aside for electricity and telecommunication cables, the third section can be used for these gigabit network cables.
State Senator Beth Bye, who was involved in creating the new legislation giving cities ownership over part of their utility poles, said that high-speed internet should be seen as a necessity for economic development in Connecticut.
“Our innovation economy requires this tool to grow and be competitive on a global scale,” Bye said in a press release.
After evaluating responses to the RFQ, Swanson-Katz said, the next step is for cities to talk with developers about moving forward with the multi-year project.
The state will pay the chosen developer over a 30-year period.
“The infrastructure will long outlive any financing,” Lembo said. “These aren’t like roads which have to be maintained every three or four years.”
He added that he had already heard from potential consumers of gigabit technology who say the high-speed service will spur growth. One interested business is SeeClickFix — a New Haven company that allows community members to report non-emergency issues in their neighborhoods to city government through an app.
Although gigabit speed service is primarily intended for public and private firms, Wi-Fi hotspots for communities may be included as part of the build out, Lembo said.
The 46 participating Connecticut cities encompass close to half of the state’s population.