Gigabit Cities

1-Gig: Coming to a Small Town Near You

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?)

For the latest on urban network innovation, visit Light Reading's dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel. And watch for forthcoming details on Light Reading's Gigabit Cities Live event, to be held in May 2015 in Atlanta.

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

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mhhf1ve 12/18/2014 | 7:14:54 PM
1-Gig pricing..? I'm curious if there have been any comparisons of 1-Gbps service prices from all these different kinds of providers and their respective business models. I can't get 1Gbps service where I live (yet), but it sounds like prices for 1Gbps services are not quite in line with more common DSL or cable pricing tiers. That is, 1Gbps services are not that much more expensive in many cases if you were to compare prices by extrapolating the speeds vs price tiers. 

Essentially, I'm wondering how 1Gbps services enter into markets where broadband does and does *not* already exist -- are the pricing strategies different? How do they differ?
KBode 12/18/2014 | 7:55:06 AM
Re: Privately Held Small Town 1-Gig providers Yes I think it's very promising. Except where they run into those municipal barrier laws erected by incumbent ISPs. I think we'll be seeing greater and greater pressure to have those kinds of laws dismantled very soon. I know Wilson and Chattanooga are already pressuring the FCC, but it seems like that story isn't going to be going away anytime soon.
jasonmeyers 12/18/2014 | 6:39:49 AM
Re: Privately Held Small Town 1-Gig providers I agree, the formation of rural telcos is a good parallel. I think it's interesting in many of these cases where municipal utilities are involved that even the local rural telco isn't involved in delivering fiber to the home and gigabit services -- wheras in other cases, the IOC is driving the effort. This is really the formation of a whole new category of service providers.
brooks7 12/17/2014 | 7:10:07 PM
Re: Privately Held Small Town 1-Gig providers See OPASTCO....


PS - The meaning to this is -  Small towns making their own SPs is not new.  Not even close to new.  That is where the IOCs came from in most cases.

jasonmeyers 12/17/2014 | 2:33:53 PM
Re: Privately Held Small Town 1-Gig providers I agree - there seems to be more and more interest by service providers in partnering with munis, which I think is a good sign for the competitive landscape.
KBode 12/17/2014 | 2:28:39 PM
Re: Privately Held Small Town 1-Gig providers Hah, I thought you might already be on that. Their MVNO hasn't seen that much subscriber interest despite some consumer-friendly ideas....pushing into the fixed-line market looks promising all the same!
jasonmeyers 12/17/2014 | 2:27:08 PM
Re: Privately Held Small Town 1-Gig providers Yes -- that story is coming next
KBode 12/17/2014 | 1:46:23 PM
Re: Privately Held Small Town 1-Gig providers Of note is the fact that Ting (the MVNO run by Tucows) today announced they too are getting into the 1 Gbps broadband race after buying a small ISP in Virginia.
KBode 12/17/2014 | 1:45:37 PM
Re: Privately Held Small Town 1-Gig providers I'm still  torn as to whether 1 Gbps is necessary for communitites to evolve -- or if just say a tier offering something like 100 Mbps -- but at a reasonable price, is more important. Of course if you can get a gig at a reasonable price, all the better. Though I still think speed has eclipsed the more important metric of price courtesy of PR.
jabailo 12/17/2014 | 1:14:10 PM
Re: Privately Held Small Town 1-Gig providers The Gig pipe is the 21st century equivalent of a shipping port or railroad station.   It gives a Raison d'etre for jobs to be done in that place.   In fact, a small Gigatown is a far more efficient work center than most pricey urban centers!   I expect to see work and living switch back to this modern Agraria with the roll out of high speed networks.

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