Gigabit Cities

Leading Lights 2016 Finalists: Most Innovative Gigabit Broadband Service

The promise of gigabit broadband is fueling infrastructure investments, entrepreneurship and more than a little friendly competition. But while everybody's jumping on the gigabit bandwagon today, there are a few companies and municipalities that have gone above and beyond -- designing new applications, adapting existing networks and, in some cases, even going beyond the gigabit threshold. It's these organizations that are worthy of consideration for a Leading Lights award, and that have made our short list for the honor of being named Most Innovative Gigabit Broadband Service.

For more on this year's finalists, read on. Winners, and the newest class of Hall of Fame inductees, will be announced at the Leading Lights awards dinner on Monday, May 23, at the Hotel Ella in Austin, Texas. For more details, see this Leading Lights 2016 awards dinner page. The following day, the Big Communications Event 2016 opens its doors for two days of networking and learning.

Comcast – Gigabit Internet
Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has emerged in the US as not only the largest cable operator, but also the driving force behind many of the industry's technological advances. And as the standard-bearer for DOCSIS 3.1, Comcast is leading the way as one of the first operators in the world to deploy gigabit service over a D3.1 network. Comcast's first deployment is in Atlanta, and it's scheduled to expand service to several more cities before the end of the year.

There are several advantages to DOCSIS 3.1, including the fact that it allows cable companies to use existing HFC networks to deliver gigabit service, and the fact that it's backwards compatible with DOCSIS 3.0. However, it still requires significant network investments to wring the full capacity potential out of the new technology. To that end, Comcast has been pushing fiber deeper into its network, enabling smaller service provider groups, and freeing up greater bandwidth for subscribers. The combination of network investment and savvy re-use of legacy infrastructure is what will help Comcast bring gigabit services faster to more people around the country. And it's what earns Comcast a spot on the Leading Lights shortlist.

EPB – 10Gig City Chattanooga
EPB Fiber Optics in Chattanooga has been making gigabit headlines since 2010, so it's no surprise to see the publicly owned utility continuing to innovate with its broadband network infrastructure. Early on, EPB became a national story as the first provider in the country to offer gigabit services to residential customers, and to power a smart grid with the same gigabit network. Those investments have contributed to a city-wide economic benefit of around $1 billion.

Not content to rest on its laurels, however, EPB has pushed the envelope even further, exploring next-gen PON technologies and launching symmetrical 10-Gig service across a 600-square-mile area of Chattanooga. The company now offers 10-Gig service to 170,000 homes and businesses, making it a strong contender for a Leading Lights award.

Fibrant – 10Gig Internet service
There is some contention over who can lay claim to creating the first 10-Gig city in America. While EPB launched residential service last October, Fibrant , a municipal provider in Salisbury, N.C., announced plans in September to make 10 Gbit/s speeds available to every business and residence in the city. That deployment starts with anchor institutions and commercial buildings, and Fibrant's first 10-Gig customer is local Catawba College.

While Fibrant is only delivering 10-Gig speeds over point-to-point Ethernet today, it does plan to expand into next-generation PON technologies in the near future. It's also doing innovative work in the business services sector, selling data center services to generate new revenue for the city. Fibrant's innovation around both infrastructure and services is what wins the company a spot on the Leading Lights finalist list, and the chance to take home the Most Innovative Gigabit Broadband service award.

LinkNYC – LinkNYC
While LinkNYC is only at the start of its deployment, the innovative public/private initiative promises to spread gigabit wireless access across the five boroughs of New York City. Creating a canopy of connectivity, LinkNYC is using kiosks at old phone booth sites to stand up new WiFi hotspots, deliver information on city services and even offer charging ports for residents and tourists who need a power boost.

Perhaps most remarkably, LinkNYC is implementing a gigabit wireless network at no extra cost to consumers. WiFi access is free, thanks to advertising on the many LinkNYC kiosks. It's a model that others are bound to replicate, and partners in the LinkNYC program are already talking to additional cities about how to make gigabit WiFi available elsewhere.

Twin Valley – Gigabit Pulse
Clay Center, Kan. may seem like an unlikely place to find gigabit service, but thanks to local ISP Twin Valley, the community has been a home to gigabit broadband since the fall of last year. Given Clay Center's rural location in the northern part of Kansas, high-speed connectivity is a particularly noteworthy achievement.

Twin Valley has been recognized by the NTCA - The Rural Broadband Association as a Smart Rural Community and has been putting its operations to good use by serving both local residents and commercial businesses. From grain manufacturers to hospitality and educational institutions, businesses have benefited from gigabit service, streamlining their own operations with high-bandwidth, low-latency applications. Twin Valley's investment in the economic development of its community is what earns its right to join the short list for a Leading Lights award.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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