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Announcement and Support of Government Could Lead to First State-Wide Gigabit Network in Connecticut

in Broadband's Impact/FCC/Fiber/Gigabit Networks by

HARTFORD, Conn., September 16, 2014 – Connecticut state and city leaders on Monday announced a nationally-praised effort to build the first all-state Gigabit Network.

The mayors of the state’s second- and fourth-largest cities, New Haven and Stamford, joined with state legislative leaders, the state’s Comptroller, and others to seek to create an “open access” fiber-optic network targeting the state’s residential and commercial corridors with Gigabit connectivity.

A Request for Qualifications document released Monday envisions a public-private partnership leveraging existing state assets, including an existing ultra-high speed statewide fiber network that connects all 169 municipalities with multiple nodes and Gigabit access.

“This project is an important step toward making Connecticut the first Gigabit State,” Comptroller Kevin Lembo said. “It would be the ultimate economic assistance and incentive program – rewarding all business and industry with an infrastructure worthy of settling in Connecticut. It would serve as an open door to all businesses, including new ones and those already established here.”

“This collaboration among our cities and these state-level groups will lead Connecticut forward and avoid a damaging digital divide,” said New Haven Mayor Toni Harp.

“It’s essential that the municipalities in this state work together as a whole on this project,” said Stamford Mayor David Martin.

Economic Development-Driven Effort

In addition to the prime goal to “foster innovation, drive job creation and stimulate economic growth,” the RFQ’s other two goals include the provision of “free or heavily discounted 10-100 [Megabit per second] internet service over a wired or wireless network to underserved and disadvantaged residential areas,” and making Gigabit Network services available at low prices.

“Respondents are thus encouraged to fashion comments or responses to this RFQ that propose the involvement of the state’s assets in the Project,” read the document. It also encouraged “collaborative efforts among multiple governmental organizations in order to offset some of the local asset discrepancies.”

The document, which could lead to statewide procurement, grew out of efforts undertaken by Connecticut’s office of Consumer Counsel, bringing together national Gigabit leaders — including Blair Levin, architect of the Federal Communications Commission’s 2010 National Broadband Plan — earlier in this year.

“As soon as we started the conversation about Gigabit Network, we heard from businesses, universities, high-tech start-ups, mayors and first selectmen – really such a variety of stakeholders – about how greater internet speeds at lower costs are essential to their functioning,” said Consumer Counsel Elin Swanson Katz. Connecticut’s State Broadband Initiative office operates out of the Office of Consumer Counsel.

“It’s time we tear down the galls to Gigabit internet access in Connecticut, said state Sen. Beth Bye from West Hartford. “We have the will and I believe we have the ability to make this happen for Connecticut.”

West Hartford, the third of the three cities issuing the RFQ, is the state’s 11th largest city. Among the city’s assets is a 35 linear mile fiber optic network.

Business Support and Tangible Benefits

In addition to the commitments by New Haven, Stamford and West Hartford — and the interest of the state — technology business leaders pledged their support to making the effort a success.

“We have an opportunity to take Connecticut to the next level,” said Ted Yang, founder and CTO of the Stamford-based Media Crossing, a digital media start-up. “Our competitors in New York City and San Francisco don’t think twice about having the best broadband speeds, and we need to level the playing field.”

“We would like to see the progress of science and medicine being limited only by our intellectual capacity and imagination, not by the speed and volume with which we exchange and share our data and ideas,” said Dr. Yu-Hui Rogers, state director of the Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in neighboring Farmington.

Declining costs of computing have dropped the cos of sequencing the humane genome from $300 million to less than $1,000. “Advances in sequencing the genome translates into health benefits for people,” she said. This can only happen if data can be rapidly shared among collaborating entities.

State Assets in Streamlined Rights of Way

Among the most significant drivers of the project will be the state’s ability to provide potential respondents with access to telephone poles and rights-of-way — the key building block to successful fiber-optic construction.

“All the utility poles across the state are subject to the central statutory jurisdiction of the Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority,” read the RFQ. “The established and firm timelines for the entire pole attachment process that the Connecticut regulator has ordered and manages … thus facilitat[es] the deployment of broadband.”

The RFQ is the first state-wide effort to implement a model pioneered by Gig.U, a national non-profit consortium started by Levin after he concluded the National Broadband Plan in 2010.

The state-driven initiative also praise from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler: “High-speed broadband is an essential asset for today’s communities and tomorrow’s economy. Too many Americans lack real choices for fast, affordable Internet service, which I why I’m heartened to see these leaders commit to bringing gigabit connectivity to the businesses and consumers of central Connecticut. Today’s announcement will lead to more competitive choices for consumers and more innovation to create jobs and improve the lives across the region.”

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