Gigabit City Update

Fiber Optic Cable

In 2014, Mayor Gray announced Lexington’s intent to become a gigabit city. A gigabit city refers to a city that has the infrastructure and services to deliver data at speeds up to 1,000 megabytes per second (mbps) or 1 gigabyte per second to a household or business. The standard broadband speed for downloads is 10 mbps (16.2 mbps for Lexington). As a frame of reference, that’s the difference between downloading an HD movie in a half hour vs. a half minute.

In practical terms, Lexington’s gigabit transformation will involve building out fiber-optic cables. Fiber optic-cables have a much greater bandwidth than the current copper infrastructure used by the cable companies, and it will allow Lexingtonians to access data at much higher speeds.

A gigabit-capable fiber network will have advantages for businesses and consumers. For businesses, gigabit speeds will provide superior access to the information economy. For example, access to gigabit fiber was particularly helpful to the work of a geneticist in Provo, Utah. Downloading the human genome now takes the geneticist less than 30 minutes on a gigabit connection whereas the same download would take 77 hours over a standard connection. Having this infrastructure in place will be a strategic advantage for Lexington, as it will make our university city better suited for entrepreneurs and businesses that deal in intensive data. Much like access to rivers and oceans was critical during the industrial revolution, access to high-speed fiber networks is crucial for transporting high volumes of information in the new economy. And that’s becoming true for nearly all businesses, as they increasingly rely on the Internet for commerce, use software and applications in the cloud and back-up vital data in specialized repositories.

Consumers also stand to benefit substantially. With a fiber infrastructure in place, consumers will be better able to access high-definition content. Homes that subscribe to Netflix, Hulu Plus, and similar services can enjoy their favorite movies and TV programs over the Web, with family members able to stream content to more than one screen. The trend in content delivery is cord-cutting, which means more families are getting rid of increasingly expensive cable bills in favor of streaming HBO, ESPN and the other content they want over their Internet connection.

A team of city officials and stakeholders has been meeting monthly to explore a spectrum of public-private partnerships options and have released a “request for information” to aggregate private-sector interest. While the gigabit city initiative is still in the learning phase, one thing is immediately clear: Lexington’s density and high education-attainment levels is a competitive advantage for attracting investment in a fiber build out. Because the city has chosen to grow in instead of growing out, more households can be connected per mile of fiber optic cable than other medium-sized cities.

As a member of the gigabit city team, Vice Mayor Kay’s office will continue to keep you updated as this forward-thinking initiative develops. Lexington will soon have more to announce on its growing potential as a gigabit city, including our role as host city to a gigabit city conference in September 2015.

If you want to learn more and be engaged on this issue, I encourage you to connect with a grassroots movement growing to support this initiative, Advocates for Gigabit Internet in Lexington, Kentucky.

Would you like to receive email issue alerts on gigabit city and other Council news from Vice Mayor Kay? Please sign up here.

 

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8 Responses to Gigabit City Update

  1. Pingback: LexGig Rural Area Analysis Update | Steve Kay for Lexington

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  3. John says:

    5 months have passed since your last comment/update (on May 27th). Is there any definitive progress or news to report? Surely the team has had enough time to review all of the RFI responses and meet with all of the interested companies, several times over by now. What is the status and when will some decisions and a plan of action be announced?

    The lack of openness, transparency, and meaningful updates is becoming very frustrating for all interested parties …..

    • Nathan Dickerson says:

      Hi John, thanks for being so interested in this topic. I’m actually working on the update now that should be live after confirming some technical details. This week the Council heard about an opportunity to include fiber optic cables for Lexington in the state’s KentuckyWired middle mile project. The state’s work represents a great opportunity for synergy, and you can learn more about the state’s project here:

      http://finance.ky.gov/initiatives/nextgenkih/pages/default.aspx

      I’ll have more details in the full post. Appreciate your patience.

  4. Jim Smith says:

    Steve,

    Thank you for this update. It provides a good recap and overview, but, what I’m really interested in learning is what is the current status and timing of the RFI review process? They city staff has had the RFI responses for 8 weeks or so now, and we have not heard an update in terms of the decision making process, timelines, quality of the responses, what happens next and when, etc. etc. Thanks.

    Steve

    • Nathan Dickerson says:

      I’m happy to provide the update, and thanks again for your interest in this work. As some readers may likely be aware, with a traditional Request for Proposal, or RFP, the city has a specific project promulgated and then selects the lowest bidder. At this time for the gigabit city initiative, the city has only released a Request for Information (RFI), which the team is using to learn about options. This phase includes aggregating and understanding private-sector interest in building a fiber-optic network either privately or as part of a public-private partnership. The team is therefore using the RFI to engage companies, exploring various models of potential collaboration. There will be more to say in the coming months after fully exploring and evaluating these options. Hope this helps clarify where things stand.

      • Jim Smith says:

        Nathan,

        Now that the city has announced they’re going to issue a RFP for the gigabit fiber initiative, does that mean the city will “select the lowest bidder” and award some kind of contract? If not, how will the RFP be different than the previous RFI process? Will the city actually be committing to do anything specifically in the RFP? Are we making any progress here, or just keeping the city’s consultants employed and creating “activity”? My sense is that a lot of time, meetings, conferences, and consultant fees have been invested in this process, but, there’s really no concrete plan and the city is, in a sense, “waiting for superman” to arrive.

        • Nathan Dickerson says:

          Hi Jim,

          The RFI process casts a broader net, and the intention is to gather information. The intention of an RFP is to award a contract. Typically an RFI precedes an RFP because the former helps tailor the latter in a way that makes the request more useful for all parties. An RFP triggers an evaluation by a committee that includes employees from the requesting division and other knowledgeable parties from within government. The intention with an RFP is to award a contract, although all proposals may be rejected for technical or fiscal reasons.

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