The Gigabit Cities phenomenon is by no means limited to large urban centers. In fact, the communities getting wired for a gig on a near-weekly basis lately are primarily smaller, less populated, even more rural regions -- like Indianola, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines with a population of less than 15,000.
The gigabit connection in that town will come from Indianola Municipal Utilities (IMU), the municipally owned utility that formed a public/private partnership with broadband provider Mahashka Communication Group (MCG) to deliver a gig to Indianola residents and businesses. Through the partnership, MCG is extending IMU's dark fiber network into customers' premises and providing all services.
"We own the glass from the PoP to the NID," says IMU General Manager Todd Kielkopf. "They take it from there and do the inside wiring. We finally got big enough as a community to get the gigabit consistently. With the price of gigabit coming down at the wholesale level and demand going up, we were able to make the leap."
Residential service will launch in January, with pricing yet to be determined, Kielkopf says. The utility faces competition from both CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) and Mediacom Communications Corp. in the region.
For smaller communities like Indianola, the impetus for gigabit network deployment is often both connecting so-called "underserved" residents and providing another incentive for business investment in the region. The Emerge business incubator program at nearby Simpson College is an example of a local effort that will benefit from access to ultra-high-speed broadband connectivity, Kielkopf says. (See Utility-Backed Gigabit is Going to Jackson, Gigabit Nets Boost GDP, Says FTTH Council and Gigabit: What Is It Good For?)
The Indianola rollout also highlights the wide range of business models by which gigabit networks are coming to be throughout the US -- delivered by traditional telecom and cable operators, new entrants like Google Fiber Inc. , utilities and municipalities that forge public/private partnerships with a wide range of entities. The success and failure rates for those different approaches will be closely watched by both the communications industry and, of course, the communities themselves over the next several years.
MCG, for its part, is a division of Musco Corp. -- a large-scale industrial lighting company that lights venues worldwide. It built a private fiber network for its own communications purposes between venues, then began extending its network into commercial applications as opportunities arose, says MCG Marketing and Sales Manager Steve Burnett. Helping turn up Gigabit Cities is becoming a larger part of its strategy.
"What's going on in Indianola needs to go on in a lot of different places -- it's going to take partnerships," Burnett says. "It's a model that works with them that we'd like to do in other places."
— Jason Meyers, Senior Editor, Gigabit Cities/IoT, Light Reading