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.
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